Women, Population and Global Crisis: A Political-Economic Analysis

by Asoka Bandarage

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London: Zed Books, 1997; second printing 1998, pp. xiii + 397pp.
Paperback ISBN 9781856494281 — Price GBP£18.99 / US$34.95
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Selected by the World Review Journal in the U.K. as a ‘must read‘ for ‘anyone wanting to keep abreast of the ideas that are, or should be helping to change the world’. (World Review Vol.3, No.2, 1999)

It has been widely assumed that over-population is one of the root causes of global crisis; even amongst feminist and environmental movements, the common wisdom on population has never been seriously critiqued. This book provides that critique; it gives a historical overview of the population question and places the population-poverty-environment-security debate within a broad theoretical perspective.

The first part of the book looks at conventional ideologies of population control – from malthusianism to the contraceptive revolution. In part two, the author develops an alternative analysis of ‘overpopulation’develops an alternative analysis of ‘overpopulation’ – exploring the roots of the environmental crisis, violence and inequality en route. Critiquing capitalism, industrialism, patriarchy and white supremacy, she shows how population control acts as another dimension of our essentially hierarchical world order – and one that is moving us inexorably towards violence and destruction.

Finally, Asoka Bandarage explores new global visions and efforts towards peace, justice and ecology – efforts that place human and planetary reproduction above economic production. Arguing for a new partnership paradigm which stresses the interconnectedness of life, the book’s political significance lies in the synthesis of third world, feminist, socialist and ecological thinking and solutions.

A major contribution to the socio-historical analysis of population-poverty-environment relations, this book cuts across the North/South divide bringing to light the dialectics of gender, race and class on a global scale. As such it is essential reading for students and academics in women’s, development and environment studies as well as in philosophy, social theory and courses on ethnic relations.


Placing the needs of women, and particularly women of color, at the center of her analysis, [Bandarage] shows how the contradictions in the social and economic realities that dominate their lives jeopardize the well-being of us all. Her proposals for cooperative and democratic efforts to stem poverty give hope that we can build societies respectful of the needs of people and the rest of the natural world.

Ruth Hubbard, Professor Emeritus of Biology, Harvard University

… packed with information that is not readily available to scholars in the third world. With passionate eloquence she argues that the Malthusian focus on third world ‘overpopulation’ diverts attention from the intensification of fascist tendencies in the north and a tendency in which capitalism and right-wing fundamentalism are converging to undermine democracy worldwide. Feminists will easily recognize Bandarage’s voice as their own. This book provides much food for thought and action.

U.Kalpagam, Economic and Political Weekly, March 21, 1998

The author presents an overview of the creativeness of feminist ideas and the positive environmental rationale that support each other towards a new approach to development. This book is an important contribution. The next step is to translate the research and ideas into practice-that is action.

Fran Hosken, Editor, Women’s International Network News, vol.24, No.4, 1998

Bandarage’s passionate analysis, persuasive documentation, and prescription for personal and global systemic healing discern the structural root causes of social injustice and ecosystem degradation. From an analytical point of view, Bandarage’s book synthesizes several major paradigms into holistic analysis that is substantive and right on the mark…Women, Population and Global Crisis is a fascinating book … it delineates the reasons for, proportions of, and effective interventions for addressing our present global crisis…

Prof. Marsha J. Tyson Darling, Columbia University, Women’s Studies, vol.28 , 1999

This a well-written, thoughtful, well-researched and timely book which brings together a wealth of information on documenting the connections between economic globalization, increasing economic and reproductive oppression of women, ecological deterioration, worldwide decline in the standard of living of working people, and the uses of Malthusian and neo-Malthusian ideologies to mask the capitalist roots of the crisis. I welcome Bandarage’s book as an important addition to the progressive literature on population and as a source of very important, thought-provoking insights.

Prof. Martha E. Gimenez, University of Colorado-Boulder, Monthly Review, March, 1999

In an absorbing and compelling analysis of the role that ethics can play in building a just society, Bandarage’s breadth of vision opens out possibilities both spiritual and practical and thus points to us a way out of hopelessness.

Rangita de Silva-De Alwis, J.D., Harvard University, (Ceylon) Daily News, Dec. 13, 1997

Asoka Bandarage has given a tour de force critique of population policies and the reproductive rights movement in the post-Cairo summit world. This is a must read for anyone who hopes to stay on top of the population debate.

Food First, Institute for Food and Development Policy, vol. 19, No.67, Winter 1997

[an] ambitious and far-reaching book … should appeal to a wide readership.

K. Hadden, University of Connecticut, Choice, vol. 35, No.4, Dec.1997

… this is a book which unflinchingly looks at the big picture, offering much food for thought for diverse audiences. Its style is clear and accessible, suitable for non-specialist, professional, and academic readers. Gender analysis is woven throughout. At a time when neo-Malthusianism is resurgent and blaming the poor- a central theme of neo-liberal politics and economics- this book is a much needed breath of fresh air.

Betsy Hartmann, Director Population and Development Program, Hampshire College, Development in Practice, Vol.7, No.4, November 1997

Bandarage has written a very important book from the perspective of the majority of women in the South that will be valuable for years to come. This book is a welcome addition to the literature and scholarship on feminism, demographic transitions, political economy and international development. It should be read by academics, policymakers and development practitioners who wish to understand the complexities of our increasingly inter-dependent world and the challenges of gender, race and class posed by globalization and the global economic crisis.

Dr. Filomina C.Steady, University of Wisconsin, On Race, Gender, Class, Volume 6, Number 3, 1999

Women, Population and Global Crisis offers important analysis … underlines … the need for religious leaders on the progressive, reforming sides … to contribute to the ongoing debates on population and economic justice and to work toward just and compassionate solutions.

Dr. Daniel C. Maguire, Marquette University, Religious Consultation Report, Vol.3, No.2, October 1999


  • Figures and Tables
  • Abbreviations
  • Acknowledgements
  • Introduction
  • Part I Malthusianism: Theory and Practice
  • 1. Malthusian Analysis of Global Crisis
  • 2. Politics of Global Population Control
  • Part II Political-Economic Analysis
  • 3. Historical Evolution of Socio-Demographic Relations
  • 4. Social Structural Determinants of Fertility
  • 5. Political Economy of Poverty
  • 6. Political Economy of the Environment
  • 7. Political Economy of Violence and Insecurity
  • Part III Paradigm Shift: From Domination to Partnership
  • 8. Towards Psycho-Social Transformation
  • Appendix 1 Women, Population and the Environment: Call for a New Approach
  • Appendix 2 The Seville Statement on Violence
  • Appendix 3 Responsible Wealth: A Call to Action
  • Appendix 4 Networks and Organizations
  • Bibliography
  • Index