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The Myth of Population Control: Family, Caste and Class in an indian Village Paperback – January 1, 1972


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 158 pages
  • Publisher: Monthly Review Press; New edition edition (January 1, 1972)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0853452849
  • ISBN-13: 978-0853452843
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5.5 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #739,209 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Douglas A. Greenberg VINE VOICE on January 17, 2000
Since the time of Thomas Malthus, problems of resource scarcity and social pathology have frequently been attributed to "overpopulation," largely caused by the alleged overbreeding by the world's poor. If only those impoverished masses who bear so very many children realized the error of their ways, the reasoning goes, the "population explosion" and its attendant problems could be diffused. Moreover, their own poverty would be alleviated, since they would have fewer mouths to feed.
Champions of this Malthusian perspective generally have eschewed any efforts to actually investigate what life is like for the high-fertility poor who fuel the world's rapid population growth. In this slim but incisive book, however, sociologist Mamoud Mamdani demonstrates that by actually investigating and analyzing social reality from the perspective of those who choose to have large families, one can gain an understanding of the rationality behind this lifestyle choice. Indeed, in his study of a village society in northern India, he shows that these rural peasants are not poor because they have many children, they have many children because they are poor. High fertility is, in fact, a reasonable, even necessary choice for people with few resources other than their own labor power and that of their children. Mamdani shows that only when people's basic human needs for material security, health care, and support in old age are met can they begin to consider different life strategies that do not involve having large numbers of offspring.
When it first appeared during the 1970's, Mamdani's book was revolutionary in its influence on the population/resources debate among environmentalists.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Max Kummerow on September 8, 2009
This book was certainly important and useful in pointing out that individual motives determine fertility choices so policy should pay attention to structuring individual incentives. Clearly educating women, increasing incomes, urbanization, social security pensions for the elderly, lower infant mortality, liberating women, legalizing birth control and abortion, subsidizing birth control and abortion all tend to reduce the number of children couples prefer. But, the implication that family planning policies were misguided and wrong leaves out "the tragedy of the commons" (title of Garrett Hardin's famous essay). While it might have been individually rational for each poor Indian couple to have a large family (for old age support, etc.), it was almost certainly collectively irrational. I can't quite recall the number, but I believe it is 150,000 poor farmers who have committed suicide in India in recent years, because their wells ran dry and they ran out of hope. The "Green Revolution" that allowed India to feed itself better as population doubled and doubled again during the 20th century was based on genetics (high yielding wheat, rice, etc.), nitrogen fertilizer and irrigation. The higher yielding varieties of grains, however, require more inputs of nitrogen and water, both of which are being mined out. Nitrogen is currently made from natural gas, India relies heavily on fossil groundwater that is being mined out and water from Himalayan glaciers that are disappearing due to global warming. Undoubtedly many soils are being damaged as well, reducing future productivity. So, in the long run, it is likely that India will need to impose family planning, as China did, because its peasants are getting poorer not richer. The European demographic transition pattern is not an option.Read more ›
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