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Toward a Political Economy of Fertility: Anthropological Contributions

Susan Greenhalgh
Population and Development Review
Vol. 16, No. 1 (Mar., 1990), pp. 85-106
Published by: Population Council
DOI: 10.2307/1972530
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1972530
Page Count: 22
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Toward a Political Economy of Fertility: Anthropological Contributions
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Abstract

Three decades ago, there was wide consensus on why fertility falls. Since then, confidence in the classical form of demographic transition theory has eroded under repeated empirical challenges. Given this state of affairs in demography proper, the essay turns attention to another strand of demographic theorizing--what might be called the political economy of fertility--that is developing in cultural anthropology, social history, and historical and macrosociology. A political economy of fertility directs attention to the embeddedness of community institutions in structures and processes, especially political and economic ones, operating at regional, national, and global levels, and the historical roots of those macro-micro linkages. This essay highlights the contributions of cultural anthropology to this area of inquiry, stressing conceptual contributions that have been overlooked in the enthusiasm for anthropological methods. It provides a preliminary formulation of the basic precepts of a political economy of fertility, and enumerates some of the obstacles that must be overcome before a genuinely interdisciplinary approach to demographic political economy can take root and flower.

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