Re: (OPE-L) Rising organic composition of capital and population tendencies

From: clyder@GN.APC.ORG
Date: Tue Jun 03 2003 - 17:19:27 EDT

Quoting gerald_a_levy <gerald_a_levy@MSN.COM>:

> Re Paul C's post dated Friday, May 30:
> 1. Demographic transition or conversion is a well attested empirical
>      phenomenon.  What contrary instances can you come up with.
> The issue isn't whether there are observed empirical trends, but rather
> how we interpret those trends and whether we can expect those trends
> to be continued into the future and generalized from an essentially
> European experience to the rest of the world.
> There are a number of problems with demographic transition
> theory,  first advanced by Frank Notestein in 1945:
> a) It is Eurocentric to the extent that it postulates that population
> trends in the future in the rest of the world will parallel those that
> occurred in the 19th Century in Europe.

That is a fair a-priori criticism, but I though that
recent trends indicated that where contraception and
educational opportunities were available for women in
other continents, the same kind of fertility decline
is occuring.

> b) unless we comprehend the reasons for prior demographic
> trends we can not legitimately make any inferences about whether
> those trends will continue into the future.  Your postulate about
> what can be expected to happen re population in the next 50
> years seems particularly problematic, imo, given the long time
> horizon and the amount of uncertainties associated with population
> variables.
> c) Contrary to Notestein's theory, there isn't clear-cut cross-cultural
> evidence that rising income levels directly cause demographic
> decline. Indeed,  the spread of medical knowledge and treatment
> for the working classes  --  which contributes to declining mortality rates,
> and is a contrary tendency that can be expected to _increase_ population
> --  _is_  associated with rising income levels.  It should also be noted,
> in the advanced capitalist nations, that while there has been a long-
> term decrease in children/family, life expectancy has increased
> significantly which again exerts a counter pressure towards population
> increase.

Thid definitely causes an initial increase in population, but
then declining fertility offsets it.

>  >
> 2. My explanation of it is certainly not complete, but all of the features
>     that I mention are common place attributes of capitalist development.
>     What does it mean to say that they are not *necessary* consequences,
>     other than that we have not yet come up with an understanding of
>     the causal process generating them. This reflects our ignorance
>     more than anything else.
> Without an understanding of the causal processes, though, we can not
> come to the conclusion that you have made about what is likely to occur
> with population over the next 50 years.  Until that is comprehended any
> supposition of the future relation between projected demographic change
> and the organic composition of capital becomes highly problematic and
> contingent.

That is a fair point, but again, the impression I had was that
the demographic transition was occuring elsewhere.

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