This article will discuss the coming demographic winter which can cause a tremendous threat to industrial civilization. I will explain here how reproduction in mankind evolved historically from the primitive age to the industrial age.
Primitive Communist Society
Engels in his famous book, “Origin of the Family, Private Property, Family and the State” says that private property is the source of exploitation of women, not motherhood. He explains how men women were equal in Primitive Communist hunting-gathering society where men hunt while women gather food and look after children. Polygamy was common for both men and women. Incest was carefully avoided to prevent bad reproduction. Then men never cared about who is the father of the babies. Father remain unknown and mothers are known. So it was a matrilineal society.
There may be societies where women use to hunt but such societies fail to reproduce as fast as the above-mentioned society since the former uses gender-based division of labour and keep women relatively safe which ensures continuous reproduction. The women hunting society on the other hand fails to use efficiency of gender-based division of labour and high death among women only reduces the chance of reproduction. So men hunter women gatherer-children carer primitive societies emerge victorious through more reproduction.
Rise of Patriarchy
Things start to change when fixed property mainly cattle and agricultural land start gaining more importance than hunting-gathering. Agriculture and animal husbandry bring in a variety of goods and division of labour ensuring a rise in trade and soon money emerge as well. Then men turned into money earner as they mostly migrated and traded while women ended up in non-marketed homemaking activities and thus lost economic freedom. Moreover, to pass on private property men wanted monopolization of women’s womb as only by this mechanism his earned property will be entitled to his children. Thus, women lost sexual freedom as well. Women turn into men controlled machine for reproduction and sexual pleasure. Thus primitive tribe based communes gave way to patriarchal families.
There may be societies where women pass on property to daughters but such societies fail to reward migrating trading men handsomely and women got more freedom to reproduce less. Thus such societies fail to compete with patriarchal families which reward migrating trader men sufficiently and reproduce more. Thus mother passing property to daughters society neither can enrich trade and economy nor they can reproduce sufficiently. So patriarchal family-based society won economically and demographically.
Iron Age Strengthens Patriarchy
These tendencies are growing slowly even before the Copper age begins. But they become very powerful mainly after the advent of the Iron age (around 1200 BC pioneered by Assyrians near Iraq-Syria). Iron age resulted in quick deforestation, bringing more lands under agriculture, trade and commerce. Naturally, demand for more children grow in society and many hunting-gathering societies perish. Codes are made to ensure monopolization of a woman’s (wife) womb by her husband and only the father’s children get property earned by the father. Special religious and state laws are made to make women specialized in homemaking activities so that they can give birth to more children. Most of today’s established religious codes have their foundation in the Iron age.
Now property ownership imposes all responsibilities on the husband. The husband becomes responsible for the protection and management of cattle, land, children and wives. In the pre-industrial revolution era, it is a good arrangement. The land and cattle use to give a good income to the husband. Wives give birth to children. The children start to produce at the age of 12-15 and help the parents in productive activities.
Industrial Revolution Weakens Patriarchy
The situation gradually changes after the Industrial Revolution. Due to Primitive Accumulation, most of the men lost their lands and cattle and are converted into factory workers. As a result, ordinary men lose two important sources of income. They become completely dependent on money wages. As a result of the Industrial Revolution, production becomes dependent on many complex technologies and therefore only with adequate education can make a producer. As a result, only by educating children up to a certain age, the fathers can hope them to do productive activities. As a result, the cost of raising children increases. On the one hand, the source of income for ordinary men has decreased and on the other hand, the expenditure has increased. So the common man begins to think that it will be better if his wife earns money increasing the income of the family. Similarly having fewer children will reduce the expenses of the family. Thus fertility rate of reproductive age women in the West fell below 3 by the beginning of the 20th century. A huge stride in medical science is reducing the death rate at a faster speed and so fall in fertility rate does not reduce the working population considerably.
Rise of Communism Liberates Women
The weakening of patriarchy starts in the 1870s. Women begin to earn as wage workers in industrialized countries. The number of children per woman falls considerably. In 1917, the communist Soviet government grants women political and economic rights. Between 1917 and 1920, women for the first time gain voting rights in liberal countries like Britain and the United States who are eager to stem the popularity of communists. Nazis and fascists try to resist but fail to keep women as housewives. Communist Soviet Union becomes industrialized just in a decade where working women proved to be an important factor for fast growth.
The rise of the Soviet Union inspires the entire non-Western world to industrialize. Non-Western women are encouraged to be money earners. Non-Western countries are trying to match the Western economy so that they do not end up colonized again. So these countries are most concerned about equipping each worker with enough education, health and infrastructure. So less birth means fewer workers to be equipped with and faster will be the catch up with the West. As a result, women’s freedom and birth rate reduction become official policy in the non-Western world as well.
Rise of Western Feminism
The success of the global communist movement makes the working class of the Western world very strong. To counter the Western capitalist class seeks to reduce the bargaining power of the working class by encouraging the rise in the number of women workers. This raises the supply of labour and hence reduces the bargaining power of the working class as a whole.
From the 1970s onwards, Western capitalists begin to succeed in their policies. Women freedom became the tool of the Western capitalist class and communists are proved to be less attractive to the new women freedom movement. Gerda Lerner in her book, “The Creation of Patriarchy” preaches motherhood as the cause of exploitation of women by men. For her motherhood consumes time from women’s life which otherwise can be used to earn and hence become economically independent. For her contraceptives for reducing the chance of pregnancy is the biggest tool that has made women independent. With this, the new feminist movement starts attacking masculinity, earning money by joining the labour market or earning profit from entrepreneurship is considered to be the topmost priority for women and Engels’ theory of private property as the source of women exploitation is set aside. Women went beyond gender equality and began to get women-centred marriage and divorce laws in the West. Ordinary men begin to find marriage a non-lucrative option.
Ordinary women and ordinary men become competitors and the foundation of the family becomes weaker. Due to globalization, Western capital can move to low-wage countries and thus further reduce the bargaining power of the Western working class. Four decades of less than replacement rate (2.1) fertility rates tend to reduce the working population in the West. The sharp rise in the aged population keeps exhausting the growth momentum. Monetary rewards fail to raise the birth rate significantly in any Western country simply because motherhood steals much time and concentration from money-making life. The high cost of children raising remains an issue too. Thus Western rulers countered this by encouraging more immigrants from the non-Western world. By the 2040s, the migrant population will exceed the population share of natives in the West. The political backlash against immigrants is growing in the West through the growth of different right-wing groups.
The Coming Demographic Winter
After industrializing since World War II, the non-Western world is finally showing a falling fertility rate too. Other than Africa, Afghanistan and Polynesia almost the entire non-Western world is facing a low fertility rate. By the 2030s almost all of them will have less than replacement rate fertility rate like West. So these countries will have fewer migrants to offer to the West. Similarly, emigration will pose serious challenges to the development of these countries. So shortage of labour will cause a trade-off between the growth of the West and non-West.
Rise of China
China will join high-income countries (USD 12,000 per year Per Capita Income measured in current USD) by mid-2022. This will raise people living in developed society from 16% to 34% of the global population. For a high-income society, the challenge is not to supply each worker with education, health, infrastructure but to create one more consumer. This is because high-income economies are demand constrained economies. The rise in population means a rise in consumption and hence a rise in demand for the economy. So by 2040, when a huge section of the globe will be high-income society, shortage of young consumers and a high share of the aged population due to low birth rate can seriously pose detrimental challenges to global economy and society.
By 2040, the world may see a serious demographic crisis that can reverse the tide of Western Liberal Feminism. Just like communist-led women liberation which starts in the 1910s lost momentum by the 1980s, liberal feminism that gains momentum by the 1970s can face reversals by the 2040s. The rise in children upbringing cost in the Industrial age is weakening patriarchal families considerably. But mankind has failed to create any new social institution for reproduction which is driving mankind to the disastrous demographic winter. Other than bridging the development gap between First World and Third World and the ecological crisis, the demographic crisis may become another threat that will shake Industrial civilization once and for all.
DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy and position of Regional Rapport.