Futurs d'antan, Futuribles Journal n° 356

Population

The Demographic Revolution according to Adolphe Landry (1934). From the Subordination of Peoples to the Principle of the Rationalization of Life

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Though his background was largely in literature, the French writer Adolphe Landry (1874-1956) began his political life and career specializing mainly in the economic field. Not until the 1920s (except for a tentative preliminary incursion in 1909) did he enter the field of demography, his principal contribution being La Révolution démographique [The Demographic Revolution], published in 1934. That work, an under-rated precursor of the theory of “demographic transition”, is interesting on various counts, as demographer Alain Parant demonstrates here.

The work provides a survey of global population development from the 18th century to the inter-war period, on the basis of which Landry distinguishes three successive demographic regimes, the last of which inevitably leads, in his view, to population stagnation or even to depopulation. Though some predictions drawn by Landry from his analysis of the demographic development of the industrialized countries may be open to question in the light of currently observed facts, in the longer term – as Alain Parant shows, particularly in respect of the period following the end of the Second World War – there is every reason to believe that he may be right.

In many developed countries, the population has increased only as a result of immigration and greater life-expectancy, the latter having led to an ageing of the population. Where births – and, especially, fertility – are concerned, the long-term trend is, rather, towards inertia, which might well confirm Adolphe Landry’s argument. Unless, that is, as he himself advocated and strove to achieve through his activity in the field of family policy, the public authorities develop powerful incentives to boost the birth rate (by way of family allowances, childcare facilities etc.).

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