Population Pressure and Cultural Adjustment

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Transaction Publishers, 1978 - Social Science - 189 pages
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Integrating research from anthropology, biology, and history, this provocative, brilliant book proposes a theory of demographic equilibrium. The author's hypothesis is that human beings, like many other species, are able to adjust their population numbers to the carrying capacity of the environment. Abernethy points out that in response to perception of scarcity or abundance of resources, culturally mediated values, beliefs and behavioral patterns are modified in ways that can either raise or lower rates of population growth.

Abernethy in this way moves beyond the ideological debates that have sundered the field of policy and population. In real world time and space, cultural adjustments that balance population and resources are made over a long stretch in relatively stable or known environments. These adjustments also operate in processes that involve technological advances that appear to increase carrying capacity, and these usually act to support and underwrite population growth in any given area.

In her new introduction to this first paperback edition, Abernethy shows how many of the cultural changes the book predicted in 1979 have come to pass. She details a complex of behaviors that favor single life-styles or small family size that have contributed to low fertility rates among native-born Americans while fertility rates among immigrants continue to climb.

Population Pressure and Cultural Adjustment is not simply a theoretical slogan, but discusses a rich set of different cultural situations where this homeostatic process has been disrupted or aborted. Often, disruption occurs after the infusion of foreign value systems as well as new forms of technological innovation, or when highly permeable social boundaries result in the importation of resources for which the limits and consequences are not fully appreciated by the host population. This work will inevitably be controversial because of its implications for the limits as well as the potential of public policy in both advanced and underdeveloped societies.

Virginia Deane Abernethy is professor emeritus of Psychiatry [Anthropology] at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. She is the author of Population Politics, with an introduction by Garrett Hardin, and issued by Transaction Publishers in 2000.

 

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Contents

A Pacific Island
101
Sexual Mores
102
Sterility
104
Infanticide
105
Other Research Possibilities
106
The Late Roman Empire
107
Culture Change
108
The Christian Church
110

Direct Indicators
32
Inferential Indicators
33
Crowding
35
Sociocultural Mechanisms which Limit Population
40
Premarital Sex and Marriage Rules
41
Abstinence
45
Sexual Outlets with Low Fertility Consequences
47
Birth Control
48
Abortion
50
Mortality
51
Conclusion
56
The Evidence Its Quality Order of presentation and Material from Nonwestern Societies
60
Evidence from Nonwestern Societies
63
Population Pressure Differentials
64
Restrictions on Sex
66
Enga Theory
69
Fore Sexuality
70
Fore Response to Death
71
Culture Contrasts
72
The Netsilik Eskimo
73
Environmental Pressure
74
Infanticide
75
MaleFemale Relationships
77
Testing the Hypothesis
79
Conclusion
81
The Sensitivity of SelfContained Societies and Other Sources of Evidence
84
Islands
86
Three Longitudinal Studies
88
Environmental Pressure
89
Marriage Age
91
The Irish Potato Famine and Ascendancy of the Roman Catholic Church
94
Population Growth
96
The Catholic Church
97
Marriage Age
99
Conclusion
113
Delayed Response to Population Pressure
116
Alternate Hypotheses
118
Scarcity
120
The Locus of Responsibility
121
The Industrial and Agricultural Revolutions in Europe
123
Population Trends
124
Cultural Mechanisms
127
Legislation
128
Infanticide and Abandonment
129
Comment
133
The Developing World
134
Policy Implications
137
Summary
139
Fertility Trends and Homeostatic Mechanisms in the United States
143
Longterm Fertility Trends in the United States
144
The Economic Theory of Fertility
145
Diffusion from the Metropolis
147
Individualism
148
The Labor Market and Fertility
149
Immigration
150
The Immigrant Sector
152
Rural and Nativeborn
153
Urban and Nativeborn
154
Supply and Demand for Labor
155
The Baby Boom
156
Homeostatic Response in Contemporary Culture
158
Culture as a System
159
Individualism
161
Conclusion
169
Conclusion
172
Index
181
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