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    [Is the "general theory of population" always a general theory of population?] La theorie generale de la population est-elle toujours une theorie generale de la population?

    Veron J

    POPULATION. 1992 Nov-Dec; 47(6):1411-24.

    The 2-volume "General Theory of Population," published by Alfred Sauvy in 1952 and reissued frequently, combined theoretical arguments and wide-ranging observations which furnished an appreciation of the complexity of relationships uniting population and society. The "General Theory" offered simultaneously a synthesis of demographic knowledge and a stimulus for further research. Established facts were presented, relationships specified, and conjectures requiring verification or rejection offered. This work examines a number of concepts proposed or developed by Sauvy in the "General Theory" and assesses the degree to which it can still be considered a "general" theory 4 decades after its original appearance. The theory of optimum population is the basic framework for volume 1, which analyzes relationships between population and the economy. Although demographers continue to consider some population sizes preferable to others, the concept of an optimum population has fallen out of use. However, Sauvy's reflections on the effects of technological progress on population and employment and his work on the analysis of consumption and the role of demand in demoeconomic dynamics remain of interest. Sauvy devoted a considerable effort to calculating the economic value of a man, a topic first considered in the 17th century. Estimation of the economic value of a man is related to problems of population aging, financing of pensions, and international migration, all areas of interest to Sauvy. Volume 2 of the "General Theory" introduced the sociological dimensions of population questions. Sauvy's views on population aging, on the desirability of increasing France's birth rate to ameliorate the consequences of aging, and on family policy were presented in the "General Theory." International migration, the economic and demographic problems of the Third World, and the benefits of education in the Third World were other prominent topics. Sauvy's "General Theory" can no longer be considered a general theory in the strict sense. Although Sauvy was aware of the complexity of interrelationships, the book lacks a systematic vision of society. The work also lacks an ecological dimension and a confrontation between theories of urbanization and actual experiences. It contains no development models that go beyond a mechanistic view of society. On occasion, value judgments intrude. The work as a whole, however, retains great interest, with its abundance of information and ideas and suggestions for future research.
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