Thomas Robert Malthus
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Malthus, Thomas Robert
Born Feb. 17, 1766, at the Rookery, the family home near Guildford; died Dec. 23, 1834, near Bath. English economist and clergyman.
Malthus graduated from Jesus College at Cambridge University in 1788 and received a theological degree in 1793. From 1797 to 1803 he was vicar of a parish in Surrey. From 1805 to 1834 he was professor of modern history and political economy at East India College, where he also performed the duties of a clergyman.
An ideologist of the bourgeoisified landed aristocracy, Malthus was a founder of the vulgar political economy of Great Britain. In defending the interests of the ruling classes, he vigorously opposed the Utopian socialist ideas of W. Godwin and the then progressive views of ideologists of the French bourgeois revolution such as Condorcet and Rousseau. In An Essay on the Principle of Population … (1798), Malthus tried to explain misery and unemployment in the working classes as a consequence of the “absolute excess of the number of people” and of the “natural law of population.” He rejected Ricardo’s labor theory of value, equaling the value of goods with the costs of production, and he considered profit a nominal addition to the cost of the goods. Separating profit from labor, Malthus maintained that the source of the capitalist’s profit is not surplus value but the sale of goods at prices exceeding their value. On this ground Malthus developed the vulgar theory of distribution, maintaining that as a result of the sale of goods on the market at prices exceeding the cost of production, the distribution of any quantity of goods and services cannot be guaranteed on the basis of the total demand for them by workers and capitalists. He saw the solution to the problem of distribution in the steady growth of unproductive consumption by “third persons”—that is, landowners and their servitors, officers, and clergymen—who could, according to Malthus, create additional demand for all the goods produced in a society, a demand that is necessary for capitalist production.
Marx emphasized that Malthus, in an attempt to consolidate the existing regime for the benefit of the ruling classes, economically justified and defended the similar interests of the industrial bourgeoisie and landed aristocracy “against the masses of the people, against the proletariat” (K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 26, part 2, p. 121).
Contemporary bourgeois economists (Keynes, for example), who have offered a number of apologias for the principles of capitalism, employ several of Malthus’ concepts concerning distribution and measures for maintaining “effective demand” to regulate the capitalist economy.
WORKSAn Inquiry Into the Nature and Progress of Rent, and the Principles by Which It Is Regulated. London, 1815.
Principles of Political Economy Considered With a View to Their Practical Application. London, 1820.
In Russian translation:
Opyt o zakone o narodonaselenii, vols. 1-2. St. Petersburg, 1868. (Translated from English.)
REFERENCESEngels, F. “Polozhenie rabochego klassa v Anglii.” K. Marx and F. Engels. Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 2.
Marx, K. Teoria pribavochnoi stoimosti (Das Kapital, vol. 4), ibid., vol. 26, part 2, ch. 9.
A. P. SUDOPLATOV