In the two centuries since the first edition of Thomas Malthus’s Essay on the Principle of Population in 1798, it has become a central argument of dominant Malthusian discourse that poverty, underdevelopment and associated patterns of mortality and environmental degradation could all be regarded chiefly as the products of human population pressure on the means of subsistence. This reflects the central argument of Malthus’s work, which was conceived initially as a reaction against a radical belief in human progress associated with the French Revolution (Rothschild, 1996). Over the next half century, however, as the industrial revolution gave rise to new social and economic conflicts, the Malthusian perspective rapidly evolved into a general defence of capitalist economy (Ross, 1998b). As such, it appealed to ruling classes because it insisted that efforts to ameliorate the living conditions of the poor would only tend to make matters worse by encouraging them to have more children. In this way, by dismissing as illusory any alternative to the inequalities produced by capitalist relations of production, the ideas of Malthus and his adherents became an essential ideological weapon against systemic change.