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Categories and ContextsAnthropological and Historical Studies in Critical Demography$
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Simon Szreter, Hania Sholkamy, and A. Dharmalingam

Print publication date: 2004

Print ISBN-13: 9780199270576

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: April 2004

DOI: 10.1093/0199270570.001.0001

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Malthus' Anti-Rhetorical Rhetoric, or, on the Magical Conversion of the Imaginary into the Real

Malthus' Anti-Rhetorical Rhetoric, or, on the Magical Conversion of the Imaginary into the Real

Chapter:
(p.57) 3 Malthus' Anti-Rhetorical Rhetoric, or, on the Magical Conversion of the Imaginary into the Real
Source:
Categories and Contexts
Author(s):

Charles L. Briggs

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/0199270570.003.0003

Beyond the theory of population growth for which it is famous, Thomas Malthus's Essay on Population, published in 1798, urged systematic empirical investigation of the ‘manners and customs’ of ‘the lower classes’. Argues that Malthus's logic rests on particular constructions of mind, language, and inequality and a rhetorical posture that purports to reject rhetoric. These notions enabled Malthus to privilege seemingly abstract, decontextualized, ahistorical, universal knowledge about population and to transform issues of poverty and social inequality, raised at the time in philosophic debates and street battles waged by an impoverished proletariat, into phenomena that could be measured in purportedly objective, quantitative, and politically neutral terms —and so become objects of state regulation. Since constructions of language and rhetoric continue to inform ways of constructing and legitimating social inequalities-such as those associated with new global economic and military regimes —critically assessing how they are embedded in science, public policy, and popular culture is an important desideratum.

Keywords:   inequality, language, Malthus, population, poverty, rhetoric, science, statistics

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