Contemporary and other modern theories of political economy are concerned with questions of demography, but this interest in the subject of human populations dates back to Ibn Khaldoun's Muqaddimah (1377), when the link between the number of people living in a society and its level of civilization was first made. He pointed to the role of demography in labor and value, as well as in income distribution and growth. Later on, eighteenth century English philosopher Thomas Malthus would develop a more comprehensive theory that shed light on demography potential to place risks on the food supply. While what came to be known as the Malthusian school of thought - with the importance of demographics having been highlighted earlier by Adam Smith in the division of labor and free enterprise - would become hugely significant to various economic schools of thought from the nineteenth century onwards, Malthus' writings also inspired rebuttals from both David Ricardo and Karl Marx. Later still, eugenicist Herbert Spencer would emphasize the importance of population growth for advancement and evolution at society-level. As if realizing Spencer's theories, this inverse proportionality between demographic growth and societal development remained a constant: increasing populations would increasingly strain the agricultural production and lead to a depletion in natural resources and a decline in the relative wealth of the middle classes.
With this great legacy of previous centuries' work notwithstanding, the Arabs began the twenty-first century with major questions of demographics that are still relevant. With the rapid pace of what has been dubbed the Arab population bulge, and its attendant issues of drought, water scarcity, and deforestation, demographic growth remains an important area of scholarly enquiry when it comes to economic production and trade in developing countries. This continued relevance inspired the September 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) in Cairo, which sought to highlight how demographics impact economic growth. A special session to ICPD was held five years later to further the discussion. The aim, on both occasions, had been to formulate a strategic vision to help contain the negative economic impact of demographic transition.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, there remains some level of controversy over the way to interpret the reality of demographic change, with competing schools of economic thought presenting their respective readings. While some of these schools focus on the fallout from rapid population growth, such as land degradation, depletion of natural resources, pollution, water scarcity and contamination, and unemployment, others base their scholarship on the differences in human fertility rates between developing countries and stable industrialized societies, with the rapid population growth in developing nations impeding development. In addition to these differences are the increases in patterns of international migration and internal displacement, both of which negatively impact developmental plans. On the other hand, other scholars see demography interwoven with political, social, and cultural historical contexts. In light of this joint perspective, demographic transitions constitute a determinant factor in problems such as a lack of commonality in language, social integration, and competition for economic opportunity, all of which can lead to racism and racially aggravated chauvinism. One can see here that the question of demographic change is no longer purely an issue of developmental economics, but rather has cultural and political facets as well. Cumulative demographic change is associated with structural variables that lead with time to specific ruptures that will reshape collective identities (society, communities, religious groups, and regions).
A cursory tour of demographic changes within the Arab Homeland provides an excellent argument for the urgency of these issues. The world's Arab population increased from an estimated 36 million at the turn of the twentieth century, before climbing to 80 million during the 1950s, and soaring to 307 million in 2003. By 2020, the collective population of the Arab countries is projected to exceed 400 million. Looking at these numbers, there is no doubt that demographic changes will continue to impact the lives of Arabs.
Inspired by the controversial assumptions related to demography and its relation to development, Omran's editorial team has decided to devote the journal's third issue to the broad theme of demographic changes. Scholars submitting work are invited to approach the subject from a broad and inter-disciplinary approach, provided that their work addresses matters related to the way demographic changes in Arab countries impact economics and development, and how these changes are felt in terms of economic productivity, spending, income, trade, and, ultimately, political stability. In this sense, these changes in population are much more of a pressing concern than a set of purely abstract, academic clichés irrelevant to the dynamics of population and its cumulative and interactive changes that progress over time, thus changing the image of society and its identity. The evolution of these demographic changes cannot be measured based on the limits of the traditional approaches to these questions. It is simply impossible to completely understand how demographic changes have affected the Arab countries from the vantage point of classical economics, in isolation from the political and cultural transformations, as well as the resulting structural population variables. These variables have their repercussions on democratic choices (voting bloc) and the dynamics relevant to the social components of regional, sectarian, tribal, and national identities. In the Arab present, demographic changes witnessed the emergence of new dynamics related to the social components of these identities; Sudan, Somalia, Iraq, Lebanon, and Yemen are concrete models showing the impact of demographic change on population composition, the nature of the state, civil fragmentation and political unity.
There remains today a large number of questions related to the interplay of demographic transition and development that have not received their due attention in past symposia and publications, such as how these changes cause the rupture of demographic balance and bring about alterations in the balance of power, whether between interests of states and their sovereignty, or between different communities and how this effects the state's identity.
This issue of Omran addresses topics within the theoretical perspective that have dealt with the negative and positive aspects of population growth or population decline. It also deals with the practical aspects that focus on the impact of demographic change on poverty, unemployment, and political authority's weakness in controlling the relative disparities in birth rates within various communities. The often ignored aspects of demographic change will be explored thoroughly while examining the influence of demographic change on politics (i.e., balance of power, demarcation of state frontiers, and social diversity), on the one hand, and its repercussions on livelihood patterns, the relations among different communities within one country, and the emergence of ideological trends that encourage separatist movement, or the establishment of autonomous local authorities independent from the sovereignty of the central government, on the other.
This issue, then, will invite scholarly submissions that seek to answer all of the relevant questions from a general, theoretical approach, as well as one that uses specific case studies regarding how the demographic shift is being felt. Authors are invited to look into the interrelation between demographics and development issues in the Arab world, all while addressing untold cultural, political and social sub-topics. To these ends, the editors of Omran propose the following division of the broad theme of demographic changes into the following sub-divisions:
The General (Theoretical) Framework:
This framework will address the positive and negative aspects of the theoretical background of demographic change, such as:
- a) The correlation between population growth and economic progress: the human as an agent of economic productivity;
- b) The correlation between population growth and consumption: the human as a consumer;
- c) The effect of demographic stability on the economy: differences between ageing and youthful societies;
- d) The impact of migration on productive sectors of the economy (transportation, mobility, and rural migration);
- e) Urbanization crowding (suburbs/neighborhoods), the correlation between demographic change and poverty, and unemployment; and
- f) Demography and professions: the repercussions of demographic change on emerging jobs and social characteristics.
The Specific (Practical) Framework:
This specific framework will focus on the more practical backgrounds of demographic change, such as:
- a) Demographic change and national identity;
- b) Uneven increase in fertility across social strata (i.e., the impact on social stability because of uneven population growth);
- c) Reproduction as a source of human political power (i.e., the demographic power changes the balance of powers);
- d) Demographic changes: Impacts on patterns of livelihoods and state policy;
- e) Demographic change as a cultural power: The influence of the fittest on the community and the movement of the peripheries towards the center; and
- f) Population growth: The impact on Arab revolutionary movements.
Demographic Change and State/Authority:
This section will seek to address the following:
- a) Sectarian group, community, and centralized power: Regional, ethnic, tribal and other forms of power;
- b) Leading demographic power: Center and periphery;
- c) Demographic changes and their impact on the structure of the state and popular culture (such as the role of colors in encouraging unity or fragmentation and so forth); and
- d) Demographic changes and their resulting influence on the balance of power between societal factions (emergence of a civil actor at the expense of another; changes in political choices).
The ACRPS journals will consider publishing original, previously unpublished materials, and adopt all generally agreed upon standards for academic publishing.
Length: General research papers are 6,000 to 8,000 words in length, inclusive of a bibliography, footnotes, and tables. Only in exceptional cases will longer pieces be accepted.
Book reviews: Should cover books that have been published within the last three years. Generally, the articles should run between 2,000 and 3,000 words although there is some scope for longer review pieces to be considered as critical studies to be published in the journals.
Peer review: All submitted papers will go through a peer review process by qualified scholars. The author concerned may be asked to revise and re-submit the submitted paper in light of any comments and suggestions made by the reviewers prior to publication.
Curriculum Vitae, indexing, and abstract: a list of keywords, a complete abstract no longer than 250 words, and a brief biographical entry must be included.
Figures/Tables: Figures (i.e., diagrams, graphs, line drawings, maps, and photographs) and Tables should be sent in their original format (such as Excel, Word, or Power Point). Images alone are not acceptable.
For authors wishing to submit in languages other than Arabic: Please allow additional time for your work to be translated. This may mean submitting your text before the deadline.