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Rainer Mackensen (2005)

Régimes, Transitions, Microresearch: A Contribution to the Discussion on the "Second Demographic Transition"*

In: Zeitschrift für Bevölkerungswissenschaft, Vol. 30, 4/2005, p. 483-499, Wiesbaden: VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften, ISSN: 0340-2398

"The danger of separating demography from the social complex which it should take into account is apparent." Alfred Sauvy 1959

The Vienna Institute of Demography at the Austrian Academy of Sciences has published its Yearbook of Population Research 2004 (in English). In addition to a series of essays on topical empirical, methodical and theoretical questions which themselves are worthy of attention, the volume contains four essays which were presented and discussed at a session of the Working Group of the European Association for Population Studies (EAPS) on the Second Demographic Transition held in Warsaw in 2003. These essays mark a new stage in the debate on population theory which must be urgently recommended for consideration by demographers, and which should encourage further discussion among their circles. Above all, this requires fellow specialists to contribute new ideas in order to make it possible to develop the theoretical concepts which could lead the subject to a new level of scientific theory and logical reflection.

The essays appear under the joint title: Is the Second Demographic Transition a useful concept for demography? After an introduction written by the heads of the Working Group Francesco C. Billari and Aart C. Liefbroer, they originate from Dirk van de Kaa, David Coleman, Eva Bernhardt and Guiseppe A. Micheli. The debate may appear at first sight to be an academic one on a fashionable term. However, it represents the compact beginning of a debate which fundamentally concerns the thinking of population research and promises new suggestions.

The term "Second Demographic Transition" was introduced into the discussion by Dirk van de Kaa and Ron Lestaeghe back in 1986 in order to lend a conceptual framework to the interpretation of demographic trends in Europe since roughly 1970. It has been explained by both authors several times since then, hungrily taken up in the specialist debate and discussed, at times being a matter of some controversy. It was only this development that made it possible to bring the debate together as has happened in the new publication. Also, the restrained portrayal of the authors is the result of the years of discussion which have by now taken place, and helps to encourage further discussion of the ideas and reservations which have been presented.

* Original title: Régimes, Transitions, Microresearch: Ein Beitrag zur Diskussion des „Zweiten Demographischen Übergangs“ (full text in German only)

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