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Population and development problems: a critical assessment of conventional wisdom. The case of Zimbabwe.
ZIMBABWE JOURNAL OF ECONOMICS. 1988 Jan; 2(1):81-100.Conventional wisdom, as reflected in reports by the World Bank and the Whitsun Foundation, maintains that control of population growth is the key strategy for stimulating socioeconomic development and ending widespread poverty. The Witsun Foundation has criticized the Government of Zimbabwe for failing to include specific policies for population control in its National Transitional Development Plan. the report further expressed alarm about future availability of land to contain Zimbabwe's growing population. Communal areas are designed for a maximum of 325,000 families yet presently contain 700-800,000 families. This Malthusian, deterministic emphasis on population growth as the source of social ills ignores the broader, complex set of socioeconomic, historical, and political factors that determine material life. Any analysis of population that fails to consider the class structure of society, the type of division of labor, and forms of property and production can produce only meaningless abstractions. For example, consideration of crowding in communal areas must include consideration of inequitable patterns of land ownership in sub-Saharan Africa. Unemployment must be viewed within the context of a capitalist economic structure that relies on an industrial reserve army of labor to ensure acceptance of low wages and labor-intensive conditions. While it is accepted that population growth is creating specific and real problems in Zimbabwe and other African countries, these problems could be ameliorated by land reform and restructuring of the export-oriented colonial economies. Similarly, birth control should not be promoted as the solution to social problems, yet family planning services should be available to raise the status of women. Literacy, agrarian reform, agricultural modernization, and industrialization campaigns free from the dominance of Western capitalism represent the true solutions to Zimbabwe's problems.