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Fundamental human needs

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Fundamental human needs, according to the school of "Human Scale Development" developed by Manfred Max-Neef and others (Antonio Elizalde and Martin Hopenhayn), are seen as ontological (stemming from the condition of being human), are few, finite and classifiable (as distinct from the conventional notion of conventional economic "wants" that are infinite and insatiable).[1] They are also constant through all human cultures and across historical time periods. What changes over time and between cultures is the strategies by which these needs are satisfied. It is important that human needs are understood as a system - i.e. they are interrelated and interactive. In this system, there is no hierarchy of needs (apart from the basic need for subsistence or survival) as postulated by Western psychologists such as Maslow, rather, simultaneity, complementarity and trade-offs are features of the process of needs satisfaction.

Manfred Max-Neef and his colleagues developed a taxonomy of human needs and a process by which communities can identify their "wealths" and "poverties" according to how their fundamental human needs are satisfied.

This school of Human Scale Development is described as, "focused and based on the satisfaction of fundamental human needs, on the generation of growing levels of self-reliance, and on the construction of organic articulations of people with nature and technology, of global processes with local activity, of the personal with the social, of planning with autonomy, and of civil society with the state." [2] [3]

Max-Neef classifies the fundamental human needs as:

  • subsistence,
  • protection,
  • affection,
  • understanding,
  • participation,
  • leisure,
  • creation,
  • identity and
  • freedom.

Needs are also defined according to the existential categories of being, having, doing and interacting, and from these dimensions, a 36 cell matrix is developed [4]

Need Being (qualities) Having (things) Doing (actions) Interacting (settings)
subsistence physical and mental health food, shelter, work feed, clothe, rest, work living environment, social setting
protection care, adaptability, autonomy social security, health systems, work co-operate, plan, take care of, help social environment, dwelling
affection respect, sense of humour, generosity, sensuality friendships, family, relationships with nature share, take care of, make love, express emotions privacy, intimate spaces of togetherness
understanding critical capacity, curiosity, intuition literature, teachers, policies, educational analyse, study, meditate, investigate, schools, families, universities, communities,
participation receptiveness, dedication, sense of humour responsibilities, duties, work, rights cooperate, dissent, express opinions associations, parties, churches, neighbourhoods
leisure imagination, tranquillity, spontaneity games, parties, peace of mind day-dream, remember, relax, have fun landscapes, intimate spaces, places to be alone
creation imagination, boldness, inventiveness, curiosity abilities, skills, work, techniques invent, build, design, work, compose, interpret spaces for expression, workshops, audiences
identity sense of belonging, self-esteem, consistency language, religions, work, customs, values, norms get to know oneself, grow, commit oneself places one belongs to, everyday settings
freedom autonomy, passion, self-esteem, open-mindedness equal rights dissent, choose, run risks, develop awareness anywhere

Research Edit

Human Scale Development: Conception, application and further reflections. By Manfred A. Max-Neef with contributions from Antonio Elizalde Martin Hopenhayn (1991)

Recent research appears to validate the existence of universal human needs. [5] [6]

Examples of application Edit

See alsoEdit


ReferencesEdit

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