The Marxist Perspective
Among those who attacked the ideas of Malthus were Karl Marx and Frederick Engels. According to Marx and Engels, the food supply is not threatened by overpopulation; technologically. it is possible to produce the food and other goods needcd to meet the demands of a growing population. Marx and Engels viewed poveny as a consequence of the exploitation of workers bythe owners of the means of production. For example. they argued that England had poverty because the capitalists skimmed off some of the workers’ wages asprofits. The labor of the working classes was used by capitalists to earn profits. which. in turn. were used to
purchase machinery that cou ld replace the workersrather than supply food for all.
From this perspective. overpopulation occurs because capitalists desire to have a surplus of workers (an industrial reserve army) so as to suppress wages and force workers concerned about losing their livelihoods to be more productive. According to some contemporary economists. the greatest crisis today facing low-income nationsjs capital shortage. not food shortage. Through technological advances. agricultural production has reached the level at which it can meet the food needs of the world if food is distributed efficiently.Capital shortage refers to the lack of adequate money or property to maintaina business: it is a problem because the physical capital of the past no longer meets the needs of modern economic development In the past. self-contained rural economics survived on local labor. using local materials to produce the’ capital needed for other laborers. Forexample. in a typical village a carpenter made the loom needed by the weaver to make cloth. Today. in the global economy. the one-to-one exchange between the carpenter and the weaver is lost. With an antiquated.locally made loom. the weaver cannot compete against electronically controlled. mass-produced looms.
Therefore. the village must purchase capital from the outside, using its own meager financial resources. In the process. the complementary relationship between labor and capital is lost; modern technology brings with it steep costs and resu ts in village non competitiveness and underemployment (see Keyfitz, 1994). Marx and Engels made a significant contribution to the study of demography by suggesting that poverty, not overpopulation. is the most important issue with regard to food supply in a capitalist economy. Although Marx”and Engels offer an interesting counterpoint to Malthus, some scholars argue that the Marxist perspective is self-limiting because it attributes the population problem solely to capitalism. In actuality. nations with socialist economies also have demographic trends similar to those of capitalist societies.