Two concepts of population

Philip Kreager, Somerville College, Oxford University

Historical research in the last three decades has altered profoundly our understanding of the contexts in which demography emerged, from the 17th to the 20th century. An established literature now covers: the impetus of humanism in early modern population arithmetic; the ‘probabilistic revolution’; the rise of statistics; the public health movement; population genetics and evolutionary theory; and the troubled story of eugenics. In consequence, a new narrative line of the long-term development of population theory is now possible. Its central problematic is that population dynamics require human groups to be conceived both as limited but unbounded networks and as formally closed aggregates. The most distinguished modern formulations are, respectively, those of Darwin and Lotka. This paper tracks briefly the narrative line that combines these two approaches and the framework they together open up for population theory, pinpointing main implications as demography faces the problems of late and post-transitional societies.

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Presented in Session 75: Theories in demography