On Malthus’ Contribution to Economic Thought

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Thomas Malthus has become, over more than two centuries, one of the most frequently referenced economists with regard to demographics. As the author of An Essay on the Principle of Population (1798), he was the main disseminator of one of the most intriguing theories of population growth. His thinking has influenced many – from contemporaries, such as David Ricardo – to most of the “neo-Malthusian” schools of thought from the mid-1960s to the present day. This paper addresses some aspects of population theory discussed prior to the Essay, and the impact that this work had – with respect to both its influence and the critiques and replicas that his work suffered throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. The paper’s purpose is to draw up guidelines for a more precise interpretation of Malthus’ contribution to demographic, economic and, finally, social thought.

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