Essay on Population, 1798
Author: Thomas Mathus. Malthus was an English cleric and scholar, and was very influential in the fields of demography and political economics. He did not believe society was perfectible, and wrote in opposition to many Enlightened thinkers of his era.
Context-Famine was a fact of everyday life in England, even as agriculture was making major advances in efficiency and increased productions. However, the population continued to rise, and production of food was unable to meet demands.
Language: Slightly more difficult and has a flowery, descriptive tone
Audience: This essay is clearly intended for an intellectual crowd. Malthus is arguing against other philosophers of his era, such as Godwin, and assumes his audience is familiar with their writings.
Intent: Malthus writes to explain that human society cannot be perfected because our desire to reproduce cannot be overcome, so food production will never reach the demands of the population
Message: Humanity cannot be perfected. Unlike animals, humans possess reason, although reason alone cannot allow humans to overcome the instinct to reproduce. Each time food production increases, the population will increase to the point where there is a shortage of food. Humankind will be trapped in a cycle, which prevents the perfection of humankind.
The Wealth of Nations, 1776
Author: Adam Smith, who is also known as “the father of economics.” Smith’s Wealth of Nations is known as the first modern work of economics.
Context: Wealth of Nations was published three months after Thomas Paine’s pamphlet, Common Sense. Smith was writing during the time in which England was experiencing the industrial revolution, and the structure of the economy had changed drastically in a relatively short time period.
Language: The writing style is very clear and explanatory
Audience: The audience has more of an intellectual base, and is targeted towards those who wish to understand the workings of the relatively new economy.
Intent: To explain the division of labor
Message: The division of labor makes production more efficient and cheaper, and even simple items go through numerous stages of production. Due to this division, even poor and frugal individuals who live in a “civilized society” use items that require almost unimaginable amounts of labor.