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New Left Review I/141, September-October 1983

John Willoughby and Micaela di Leonardo

Marxism and Demography: A Response

Wally Seccombe’s ‘Marxism and Demography’ provides a welcome and insightful synthesis of Marxist perspectives and recent advances in demography and family history. [1] Wally Seccombe, ‘Marxism and Demography’, New Left Review 137, pp. 22–47. Seccombe rightly takes Marxist theory to task for relying on a sterile refutation of long-discarded Malthusian theory in place of addressing the material realities of changing population sizes and structures. Seccombe, further, provocatively states that differing modes of production are associated with different demographic patterns, and he outlines a model of the European transition period to demonstrate this contention. This integration of the demographic factor is an important advance over the Dobb-Sweezy-Brenner debates on the transition. Finally, Seccombe notes and criticizes the mutual lack of influence between feminist theory and demography. Clearly, we must attend to women as well as men as historical agents in order fully to understand changing demographic patterns. Equally clearly, feminist theory needs to consider women as individuals in variously structured populations in order to assess the changing meanings and options of their historical agency.

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Micaela di Leonardo, John Willoughby, ‘Marxism and Demography: A Response’, NLR I/141: £3

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