Jack A. Goldstone in his article argues several issues of demographic rise and explains the connection between population growth and conflict. Here I am going to summarize the key points that he argued in his article.
Goldstone identifies that though population growth increases environmental degradation like deforestation, water scarcity, land crisis, shortage of resources, and increase poverty, still this misery does not produce conflict or violation (Goldstone, 2002, p. 4). Whether violent conflict will arise or not depends on the relationship of different groups, elites and the state (Goldstone, 2002, p. 4). It depends on how the state channel elite conflicts (Goldstone, 2002, p. 4). However, population growth do intensify risks in labor force, unemployment in urban areas, risk of tension in a number of indigenous groups because of unequal balance of migration. Although demographic growth does not has direct in on international war, it does have an influence on domestic conflict which ultimately intensify international war having the origins in domestic conflict (Goldstone, 2002, p. 5).
Environmental devastation does not intensify violent conflict, which actually occurs because of social and political reasons. Conflict relating to environment can be settled through arbitration and cooperation because it is not worth for war (Goldstone, 2002, p. 7). War will not solve this problem, could only increase violence (Goldstone, 2002, p. 7). Elites as well as the weakness of state play an important role in leading a conflict. To explain this, the author gave the example of conflict in South Africa which did not occur only because of resource scarcity, but power struggle of elites regarding that land resources (Goldstone, 2002, p. 9). The author emphasises some points that why demographic variation could lead to conflict. One point is the increase of peasants who face shortage of land because of landlords who get control over their lands. We saw this situation in the case of Chiapas in Mexico. Second point focuses the increase of people in urban areas where they do not get equal employment opportunities. Thirdly inadequate political and economic options for a large group of educated young people (Goldstone, 2002, p. 14). Fourthly, increase of population ranging from the age group 15 to 25 in a country where political institutions are not strong enough (Goldstone, 2002, p. 14). And lastly, moving people to a particular area where there already exist a particular group of ethnic people or people with a political ideology (Goldstone, 2002, p. 14). As a result, it needs to examine not only the demographic changes but also background or framework of that change. He gives proper explanation that though the increase of population has an impact on resource scarcity, it does not necessarily lead to conflict (Goldstone, 2002, p. 4).
The author also argues about the infant mortality and its relation to political crisis (Goldstone, 2002, p. 17). He identifies several factors like marriage, birth rates, urbanization and migration which a population might face after war (Goldstone, 2002, p. 17). He also analyze that we should not only focus on demographic change in general but rather we should analyze the specific political and economic context of that change (Goldstone, 2002, p. 9). Overall, I found the author’s arguments really convincing in a sense that it really analyzes well how the population growth affects security problems, the conditions or factors he analysed and the explanation of the relationship between conflict and demographic change (Goldstone, 2002, p. 18).
There are some strengths and weaknesses. First I will discuss some of the strengths of Goldstone perspective.
The author successfully demonstrates the relationship of urbanization and demographic changes. He gave example of different countries in this regard. He analyses how the increase of youth people initiate instability and influence them to engage in political conflict. He also articulates whether the population growth has a direct influence or not in international war (Goldstone, 2002, p. 5). It does not necessarily mean that population growth will increase conflict or political violence because political violence occurs from different perspective, population growth could be trigger of a particular situation but not necessarily be the cause of a conflict or violence. However, demographic change may increase tension in ethnic people oriented region, as those indigenous people cannot accept the culture of diversity in their region. He also analyses how the increase of unemployed educated people eventually involved in conflict. He mentions that there is an effect of population size on conflict mainly because of trade openness which other researchers did not include as a variable in analyzing this relation (Goldstone, 2002, p. 13).
However, to focus on some weaknesses, I think he could be optimistic in a sense that he did not explain the scarcity of resources could ultimately leads to technological developments in some cases. Which means that it could eventually initiate technological advancement. The growth of skilled population may trigger to economic development which eventually reduces domestic conflict. The author did not mention that it is not only the growth of population that makes resource scarcity but the existence of unevenly or mal distribution of resources worldwide. Though the author showed the relationship between youth bulge and conflict, he did not explain elaborately the specific regime type for this argument. And also how to mitigate the disputes regarding resource scarcity and recommendations in this regard. The author might have also focused on the positive sides of population increase and whether this population could be used in a more positive way or not. Another weakness is the data analyzed on environmental degradation and poverty which might have been the cause of negative results (Goldstone, 2002, p. 5). Moreover, the author mentioned that to minimize rural conflict, there should be enough economic growth for the growing population, but this could have been different for different countries depending on other factors (Goldstone, 2002, p. 10). In addition to that, though the author argues that the population size has an effect on the conflict and state suppression, other studies found no major effect of population size in this regard (Goldstone, 2002, p. 11).
In brief, this article successfully demonstrates the main theme on demographic rise and explains the population growth and its connection to conflict.