The Population Problem and the Third World

In Sen’s discussion of the current population problem, the third world is considered to be the main ground of contention. She talks a lot of the measures taken in the developing countries designed to curb the rapid growth of their population and goes on to talk about the different measures such as coercive and collaborative approaches. In comparing and contrasting the two different approaches, she points out the restrictive and possibly manipulative nature of the coercive and seems to encourage the collaborative approach.  The collaborative approach, described by her, would provide individuals with “expanded choices and enhanced security, and encouraged by open dialogue and extensive public discussions” which will eventually (and naturally, it seems to assume) make birth control possible. In this sense, it seems a bit almost condescending to have the problem framed that it is almost their ignorance that is the cause of this “population problem.”


It’s also interesting to note how the grounds for this issue/current phenomenon is established as a “problem” without much justification. Throughout history, as noted by Sen, there were several other periods in which population saw significantly rapid growth. Industrial revolution was one, agricultural revolution was another. If the sudden growth in population has had a pattern in the past and we’ve apparently survived those revolutions, why is it suddenly a “problem” to deal with, especially by educating the third world? Why do we label it a “problem” and is the ground for this phenomenon to be label as such well-established?


Who determines the right number of children to have and what gives them the right to do so?
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One thought on “The Population Problem and the Third World

  1. This reflects the influence of categories and labels on basically everything we’ve looked at so far. Taking two similar situations (western development and eastern development) and giving one the label of “problem” changes how we view it. The question of justification is perhaps secondary, because it seems like there’s a need to create “problems” that can either divert our attention or give our concerns a clear outlet. Again, there’s also the idea of outsideness at play. From the western perspective, development in eastern areas is not the same as our own development. And I feel like the history is often ignored for the sake of making a more dramatic argument.

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