Originally published in 1973 and now reissued with a new Preface, this striking book challenges the whole structure of our thinking on how societies develop – why some are primitive and others advanced. It demonstrates that the pursuit of progress is not the real driving force behind change. Economic development, it argues, is simply the escape route of societies caught in the ecological pincers of population growth and scarce resources. The author explains the processes by which industrialization is forced upon societies by the progressive scarcity of all land-based resources. The things we think of as the fruits of man's search for progress including increasingly sophisticated technology, labour-saving machinery and the rest - are in fact part of the struggle to keep up with the growing productive task created by ecological pressures. ln this light primitive societies appear less poor than we imagine, and advanced ones less rich.

chapter 1|8 pages


chapter 2|9 pages

Cultural evolution

chapter 3|35 pages

Ecological equilibrium

chapter 5|22 pages

The structure of development

chapter 6|26 pages

The English industrial revolution

chapter 7|9 pages

Innovation and technical consistency

chapter 8|26 pages

American economic development

chapter 10|20 pages

Explanations of underdevelopment