Taking Stock of Malthus: Modeling the Collapse of Historical Civilizations

Posted: 22 Sep 2012

See all articles by Rafael Reuveny

Rafael Reuveny

Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) - School of Public and Environmental Affairs (SPEA); Indiana University Bloomington - School of Public & Environmental Affairs (SPEA)

Date Written: August 2012

Abstract

The collapse of historical civilizations has received much attention in archeology and anthropology. The findings are in line with the ideas of the classical economist Thomas Malthus, who envisioned a society in which environmental limits crucial for livelihood bind, leading to a Malthusian trap for the society. It is easy to dismiss Malthus as painting an unrealistic global future or to say that his forecast has so far not materialized, but the evolving problem of global warming provides reasons for concern. If our biosphere were to decline drastically due to global warming, no substitute could soon take our biosphere's place. If only to be prudent, it is incumbent upon us to take stock of Malthus. We can gain insight by considering the modeling literature on collapse in resource economics. The literature explains the evolution of the historical societies and attempts to solve their problem. This literature offers a gloomy outlook, although the situation is not hopeless. There are things we can do to avoid a Malthusian outcome for the global society.

Suggested Citation

Reuveny, Rafael, Taking Stock of Malthus: Modeling the Collapse of Historical Civilizations (August 2012). Annual Review of Resource Economics, Vol. 4, Issue 1, pp. 303-329, 2012, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2150002 or http://dx.doi.org/10.1146/annurev-resource-110811-114537

Rafael Reuveny (Contact Author)

Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) - School of Public and Environmental Affairs (SPEA) ( email )

1315 East Tenth Street
Bloomington, IN 47405
United States

Indiana University Bloomington - School of Public & Environmental Affairs (SPEA) ( email )

1315 East Tenth Street
Bloomington, IN 47405
United States

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