Expanding Malthusian Theory in Modern Times

Malthusian theory was given by a British scholar Thomas Robert Malthus in 1798. He noted,

  • Food production increases in arithmetic progression while population increases in geometric progression. Therefore, Nature itself tries to establish equilibrium between population and food supply, through Positive Checks such as famine, epidemics, earthquake etc.
  • Malthus also gave concept of Preventative Checks that could be used to control population growth e.g. family planning, celibacy, late marriages etc.

His theories has given rise to a separate school of thought called Malthusianism. Malthusianism has been linked to a variety of political and social movements, but almost always refers to advocates of population control.

Malthusian Graph



A new concept has been born out of the theory called Neo-Malthusianism. It is a concern that overpopulation as well as overconsumption may increase resource depletion and/or environmental degradation will lead to ecological collapse or other hazards. Neo-Malthusianism has revived since mid-to-late 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s and 2000s.

Is it Valid Today?
  • The current resurgence of diseases that threatens human existence like the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • The global population today is being threatened in all aspects of human existence like global peace and security, variance in human longitivtiy, rapidity in depletion of natural resources, erosion of human civility etc.

But we can’t ignore the fact that Malthusian theory came out at a time when agriculture was the main occupation and much economy relied over agricultural practices. But since this theory, we have gone through 3 phases of Industrial revolution waves and are currently in the 4th phase – otherwise called Industry 4.0. So, there is an immediate need to expand the theory to modern times since economy is dependent on far more variable than the agriculture.

My Opinion: Way Forward and Expansion in Modern Times

Nature has been putting such positive checks in front of humanity for so long, like earthquakes, tsunamis etc. But, this Covid-19 outbreak is one of the most desperate calls for restoration of balance and a prominent example of the positive check. Nature is gradually starting its restoration processes to account for the balance lost due to centuries of continuous unsustainable utilisation by the humans.

So today, need of hour is to expand Malthusian theory to all other resources. Be it water, food, air or Natural gas, Malthusian Theory should be expanded applied to all these resources. The preventive check we need to use in these times is the Principle of Sustainability.

Principle of Sustainability : A Possible Panacea

Sustainability is defined as utilising only that amounts of a resource which leads to the maintenance of Sustainable Replacement Level of that resource. At SRL, resource will be available at identical quantity and quality for utilisation by future generations, as it is for the reference generation. Reference generation should be chosen as a time period when levels of that resource were found to suffice present as well as future needs.

  1. The absence of sustainability in the utilisation, can and will lead to a positive check by Nature.
  2. If humanity has to survive and grow peacefully, the only way forward is co-existence with Nature maintaining the SRL for every resource.
  3. SRL for each resource will grow with the growth in population and decrease with the decline in population. Thus, in order to minimise the SRL, low population levels is favourable.

To conclude, I would like to suggest that there must be inclusion of principle of sustainability in policy formulations by governments. The governments must take responsibility of recording and maintaining SRLs, atleast within their sovereign lands. Also, it becomes the prime duty and moral responsibility of every human being to contribute towards sustainability because

If you will try to play with Nature, She will finish the game altogether.

Sahil Gupta

A budding Entrepreneur, Thinker, Writer and most importantly a Seeker... Read More


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