This essay is reproduced here as it appeared in the print edition of the original Science for the People magazine. These web-formatted archives are preserved complete with typographical errors and available for reference and educational and activist use. Scanned PDFs of the back issues can be browsed by headline at the website for the 2014 SftP conference held at UMass-Amherst. For more information or to support the project, email email@example.com
About This Issue
‘Science for the People’ Vol. 8, No. 6, November/December 1976, p. 3
In the major article of this issue, Concerned Rush Students present a detailed analysis of the drug industry’s all-pervasive-and subtle influence on doctors’ attitudes towards prescription drugs. They clearly ex-pose the contradiction between corporate profit and people’s needs in the health care sector. This article is in two parts, with the second half to be published in the January issue of the magazine.
Nancy Folbre’s article focuses upon population growth and the economic factors which determine its rise or decline. This article is important because it avoids the pitfalls of current debates between technocrats and the Left.
Folbre criticizes the technocrats for concentrating merely on “technical fixes” to halt population growth in the Third World rather than analyzing the underlying causes. As Folbre points out, population trends are relatively independent of contraceptive innovations. When the new technology inevitably fails, the rulers of developing countries, with the strong support of the US, resort to legal sanctions, bribes and forced sterilization.
Folbre argues that the Left has largely refused to acknowledge that rapid population growth poses difficult problems for the development of Third World countries. Instead the Left has focused on the world capitalist system as the main cause of underdevelopment. According to Folbre, the Chinese view the reduction of population growth as an important goal. Folbre cautions that the question, of whether population growth should be reduced, depends upon an economic analysis of the particular country. She agrees with the Left position that political and economic reorganization is much more important than the population growth rate in determining per capita income. But she re-cognizes that population growth is a critical factor in the developmental process.
We agree with Folbre’s position that rapid population growth is a crucial problem and that the solution is political not technological. But there are some questions and problems we would like to raise. First, in her analysis, Folbre does not give adequate emphasis to non-economic factors which affect population growth. Is it possible that even after economic reorganization, population growth rates remain high because of other factors such as culture, religion, social norms and values, etc.? What has been the impact of the women’s movement in reducing the rate of population growth?
Secondly, we believe that the question of whether population growth should be slowed or increased should not be based solely on an economic analysis. For example, in making its decision, a truly human society must also take into account the issues which the women’s movement has raised about the family and the sexual division of labor.
The article by Steve Cavrak describes the case of technical workers in Britain’s Lucas Aerospace Corporation demanding that the product of their work be socially useful, and that production be meaningfully structured. In doing so, the Lucas workers have made contract demands which encroach upon areas of decision-making traditionally reserved to management. The workers have made steps toward forcing a conversion of their defense-oriented company to a science and technology that would serve people, not work against them.
Many of the articles submitted to SftP are written in a formidable technical style that makes access by non-specialists difficult. We would prefer articles written for a broader readership and ask authors to make sure esoteric words are first clearly defined and then used only with care. Accuracy and depth of coverage need not be sacrificed. Rather, more attention to how things are said as well as to what is said improves the chances for accurate communication to readers.