For example, from the stage of hunters and nomads, mankind turned to the stage of settled living. Hunting, fruit gathering and sheep rearing gave way to domesticating of animals and private agriculture. Then came urban culture and rich diversity of vocations population increased, inhibiting factors Weakened, private property emerged, and we have reached a stage when Private means of production could also be refined in a hundred ways.
This led to the formation of economic classes, and there occurred a social hierarchy, codes of behavior, rules of punishment for crime and misconduct. Subsequently, the Industrial Revolution (1779) gave birth to the capitalism and thereby emerged the classes of haves and have-nots. In Marxian thought, the division of people into classes had the effect of initiation of class struggle as the class interests were mutually hostile and irreconcilable. In brief, there was a class of employees and another of the employed. In familiar Marx terminology, this would be called as exploiters versus exploited.
It was in this backdrop that Marx, while postulating his general theory of communism and scientific interpretation of history, also gave some ideas about population growth. As a strong believer of dialectical materialism, he considers that society, especially the feudal and capitalist society, has two major economic classes, viz., the rich and the poor. The rich were those who possess the modes of production (land and factories etc.) and earned profit by exploiting the labourers and the environment (resources).
The owner of modes of production has the freedom to offer employment and the workers, being too poor, cannot resist the terms the employer’s offer. Thus, the workers by contract sell their energy, skill and will to work in return for agreed wages. Under this system, the owner of means of production retains the right to terminate the contract of employment at his sole discretion. He hires and fires at will. In most cases, the law is on his side.
Where this is not so, law courts can be induced to prove helpful to this cause. Moreover, the owner is the sole judge of the utility and performance of his workers. This has been the situation ever since man started employing other men for the production of goods in the field, shop, household and factory. The employer earns profit by exploiting the workers as they are underpaid in the form of wages. This profit was termed as ‘surplus value’ by Marx. Surplus value was the positive difference between the exchange value and subsistence value (wages). The profit earned by the rich led to the process of capital accumulation. In consequence to this, the poor workers (labour class) try to accumulate labour, the only commodity they possess, through rapid population growth.
Improvements in the technology of production and rapid growth of population among the poor workers lead to surplus labour and unemployment. This is the main cause of misery, unemployment, undernourishment and poverty in the society. The population of the poor grows at a faster pace as compared to the rich and ultra-rich, which are in a small proportion and possess almost all the modes of production. Fundamental change in history, according to Marx, is on account of class struggle in human societies. This is also the crucial key to basic understanding of population growth. Judged in this light, not only the past pattern of growth of population can be interpreted, but even the future trends of population growth can also be reasonably projected. Marx further advocated that it is the working population which, while affecting the accumulation of capital, also produces the means, which is turned into a relatively surplus population.
This process leads to unemployment and poverty in the society. With the passage of time, there occur new innovations in the methods of production, the improved technology render the growing population of poor people unemployed, which sharpens and intensifies class struggle. For this reason, class struggle and poverty are seen as the main driving forces of rapid population growth among poor workers.
Marxian theory of population is based on as a reaction to the capitalistic mode of production and governance. According to Marx, poverty and misery were not natural inevitabilities but unpleasant gifts of capitalism. Misery, poverty, unemployment and fast growth of population can disappear if capitalistic form of social order is replaced by communism. He had a considered opinion that poverty and misery are the outcomes of unemployment and underemployment arising out of inability of the capitalistic social order to provide jobs to all, regardless of the speed at which the population increased.
Marx was not in agreement with Malthus who postulated that population tends to increase faster than the means of subsistence, thus absorbing all economic gains, unless controlled by what he termed ‘preventive’ and ‘positive’ checks. Marx places the workers (masses) at the centre of main historic processes on which depend the growth of population and the course of history He also asserted that on the top is, and has been, the ruling class, small in numbers but unchallenged in authority and power; and down below is that large body of the masses which lives in utter misery and is content to be exploited and driven like dumb creatures. In the opinion of Marx, there could be no one universal law (natural law) of population growth.
The growth pattern and dynamics of population change with the change in mode of production. Mode of production is a specific set of forces of production (labour, capital, material, machinery, etc.) patterned into a specific set of relations of production developed as a result of agreement between the employer and the workers. According to Marx, each mode of production had its own economic and demographic laws. In other words, the growth pattern of population of a nomadic society will be different from that of settled cultivators and the demographic attributes of an industrial urban society will be different from that of an agrarian rural society.
Thus, in the opinion of Marx, economic classes and private property are the principal twin evils which lead to poverty, unemployment and fast growth of population. The private property hurts the general good of the community at large. In particular, property that qualifies as primary means of production such as mines, land, agricultural fields, orchards, factories, mills etc., cannot be permitted to be owned privately. These resources should be owned by the community at large, if the rapid growth of population is to be checked and poverty and miseries are to be eliminated from the society. Marx had full faith in the ability of communist method of production to give full employment and a good living to all able-bodied workers regardless of the rate of increase in their number. One basic postulate of Marx about the growth of population is that in the capitalistic form of society the supply of laborer increases much faster than the opportunities of employment. This surplus- population becomes an industrial reserve army of unemployed and underemployed hands.
The movement of wage levels is determined by the magnitude of working population among this industrial reserve army. This critical proportion of workers among reserve army is controlled by expansion or contraction of capital. The birth and death rates as well as the size of family in turn have inverse correlation with the level of wages, i.e.
, means of subsistence at the disposal of different categories of workers. Such a class of workers, which is more prone to become a part of reserve army or surplus population, shall have lower wage level and hence high birth and death rates—a situation found in most of the underdeveloped and developing countries of Africa and Asia. Marx, in his theory of population, thus, tried to establish a relationship between capital accumulation, labour demand, surplus population (unemployed and underemployed workers), wage levels, standard of living, poverty and rates of fertility and mortality and growth of population. In his opinion, all these are closely related in the capitalistic form of society in which means of production are owned by a small proportion of population and the rest are the workers who are being exploited by the employers. Marx postulation about population exposes the weakness of the capitalistic form of social order in which individuals have the right to accumulate huge amount of wealth and labourers are exploited low due to wages, making them in poor and helping them in increasing population at a faster pace. This theory has, however, been criticized on several counts, as under: 1. The unprecedented growth of population in the world is not due to the lower wages, unemployment and underemployment but mainly owing to the extension in the medical facilities and health care services which substantially reduced the death rates without arresting the birth rates.
2. The increase in the population does not automatically lead to the decline in real wages as has been argued by Marx. There are numerous socio-political and economic factors which determine the wage levels and employment opportunities in a society. 3.
Marx attempted to establish a positive correlation between the levels of wages and the rate of population growth, i.e., higher the wages, lower the birth rate. The faith and religion of the population has, however, not been taken into consideration by Marx in his postulate.
There are numerous affluent ethnic and religious groups in both the developed and developing countries in which the rate of birth is significantly high. 4. Marx overemphasized and considered private property as the main cause of all evils, including poverty, misery, unemployment and fast growth of population. The social norms, education level, technological advancements and attitude towards family are all vital determinants of population growth. Thus private property may not be blamed as the sole factor for population increase.
5. Marx theory of population growth may be relevant to the capitalistic societies and in all probability would not operate in feudalistic, socialistic and primitive hunting and food gathering societies. 6. The physical environment (terrain, climate, soil fertility, etc.) as the determinant of birth and death rates has been given adequate weight age by Marx in the growth of population. There are scholars like Spencer who believed that man had no control on his reproduction capacity as the forces of evolution are quite beyond his control.
7. There are demographers like Dumont who believed in the prevalence of social capillarity where the need for smaller families would be generated by the desire for better economic status. Despite all these criticisms, it can be said that after Malthus, Karl Marx attempted to give a scientific explanation of the growth of population which was based largely on the information available from the capitalist countries. Growth of population in a region is, however, controlled by the physical, socio-cultural and economic conditions. It is because of these factors that a universal model of population growth cannot be postulated. The demographic transition theory, developed in the 20th century, gives a more cogent, logical and systematic explanation of population growth.