Thomas Robert Malthus

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

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.


An 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.)


Engels, 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.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
12.Antony Flew, introduction to An Essay on the Principle of Population and a Summary View of the Principle of Population [hereafter, An Essay and a Summary View], by Thomas Robert Malthus (Harmondsworth, U.K.: Penguin Books, 1970), 9--10.
Thomas Robert Malthus was born at the Rookery, Wotton, Surrey, on February 13th, 1766, to Daniel Malthus (1730-1800) and his wife, Henrietta Catherine nee Graham (1733-1800).
The Economics of Thomas Robert Malthus. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.
Thomas Robert Malthus, early political economist and "moral philosopher," had most assuredly had an idea, a strangely powerful idea that enthralled him for the rest of his life.
"Thomas Robert Malthus, Essays in Biography (1933)." In The Collected Writings of John Maynard Keynes, Vol.
Evidently, economics departments don't think so: Most economists graduate without ever having read Adam Smith, much less studied the discipline's evolution, encountering instead only the most recent mathematical emendations of theories that hark back to Smith, David Ricardo and Thomas Robert Malthus. (As I read Teachings, I felt compelled to scribble little equations and formulas in the margins, as if translating the text into the economic laws that are taken for granted in diagram-choked introductory textbooks.) Heilbroner mined great depths--Schumpeter's History of Economic Analysis alone is over a thousand pages long--to find the gems that he tantalizingly presents in refined settings.
Thomas Robert Malthus's role in building up the system of Classical economic thought, Lord Robbins opined nearly half a century ago, is 'a matter likely to arouse much more controversy than the answer to a similar question in the case of the other great Classical economists' (Robbins 1970, 86).
The theological opinions of Thomas Robert Malthus have been the subject of a number of studies in recent years--for example, Harvey-Phillips 1984; Hollander 1989, 1997; Le Mahieu 1979, Pullen 1981, 1987; Santurri 1982, Waterman 1983, 1991a, 1991b; Winch 1987, 1993.
In 1798, a dour young cleric named Thomas Robert Malthus invented overpopulation.
1970 [1815], The Grounds of an Opinion on the Policy of Restricting the Importation of Foreign Corn; intended as an appendix to 'Observations on the Corn Laws', reprinted in The pamphlets of Thomas Robert Malthus. New York: Kelley.
Abstract: The day-to-day records of the bank accounts of the political economist, Thomas Robert Malthus (1766-1834), have been preserved at Hoare & Co., London.
Thomas Robert Malthus was born on 13 February 1766, the second son and sixth child of a well-to-do country gentleman, Daniel Malthus (1730-1800).