The typical explanation is that humanity was stuck in a Malthusian trap
. Roughly, this means that for per capita income above some subsistence level, population increased and below that level, it declined.
"The Future of Sex," however, did contain one contentious claim that "we have broken out of the Malthusian trap
." Unfortunately, like the religious, we secularists also have an anthropocenric view of the world and disregard the enormous environmental and personal costs of that view.
Conversely, he uses China's spectacular transformation from an impoverished agrarian society to a formidable industrial superpower to shed light on the fundamental shortcomings of the institutional theory and mainstream "blackboard" economic models and to reevaluate historical episodes such as Africa's enduring poverty, Latin America's lost decades and debt crises, 19th-century Europe's escape from the Malthusian trap
, and the Industrial Revolution itself.
Much of his thesis hangs on slavery's instrumental role in breaking the Malthusian trap
or cycle that typified preindustrial economies.
For most of human history, every society was in a Malthusian trap
: economic improvement due to technological advance could lead to population growth, but it could not lead to sustained increases in living standards.
This Research Brief is based on WIDER Working Paper 2014/124 'Shipping around the Malthusian trap
' by Michael Grimm, Claude Wetta, and Aude Nikiema.
Indeed the case of Malthus is an interesting one regarding the matter not only of the history of the production of knowledge but its historicity: for if Malthus's cautions about population outstripping food supply seemed by the mid-nineteenth through the midtwentieth centuries to be overzealous, given advances in food production (not to mention birth control), in certain respects Malthus may be once again, to invoke Foucault, "in the true." As Alan MacFarlane, the Cambridge historian and anthropologist, put it in "The Malthusian Trap
The modern Malthusian must also tackle the two big objections that have been made to Malthus's theory for nigh on a century now, namely that improvements in the technology of food production on the one hand, and of contraception on the other, have defanged both jaws of the Malthusian trap
A whole chapter is also devoted to what Kenny describes as the end of the Malthusian trap
. Malthus believed in "the constant tendency in all animated life to increase beyond the nourishment prepared for it".
The green revolution and technological progress have contributed to decisively overcome the Malthusian trap
and to bring about an impressive demographic explosion.
The April 2010 issue of Foreign Policy ominously warned that failing to meet the challenge of "peak phosphorus" would mean that "humanity faces a Malthusian trap
of widespread famine on a scale that we have not yet experienced."
It is divided into three parts: the Malthusian Trap
which presents a global model of traditional society that runs from the birth of civilization to 1800, the coming of the Industrial Revolution, and finally what Clark refers to as the Great Divergence or the failure of industrialization in most of the under-developed countries.