Thoughts on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs…
Abraham Maslow Maslow posited a hierarchy of human needs based on two groupings: deficiency needs and growth needs. Within the deficiency needs, each lower need must be met before moving to the next higher level. Once each of these needs has been satisfied, if at some future time a deficiency is detected, the individual will act to remove the deficiency.
Maslow’s initial conceptualization included only one growth need–self-actualization. Self-actualized people are characterized by: 1) being problem-focused; 2) incorporating an ongoing freshness of appreciation of life; 3) a concern about personal growth; and 4) the ability to have peak experiences. Maslow later differentiated the growth need of self-actualization, specifically naming two lower-level growth needs prior to general level of self-actualization (Maslow & Lowery, 1998) and one beyond that level (Maslow, 1971). They are:
5) Cognitive: to know, to understand, and explore;
6) Aesthetic: symmetry, order, and beauty;
7) Self-actualization: to find self-fulfillment and realize one’s potential; and
8) Self-transcendence: to connect to something beyond the ego or to help others find self-fulfillment and realize their potential.
Maslow’s basic position is that as one becomes more self-actualized and self-transcendent, one becomes more wise (develops wisdom) and automatically knows what to do in a wide variety of situations. Daniels (2001) suggests that Maslow’s ultimate conclusion that the highest levels of self-actualization are transcendent in their nature may be one of his most important contributions to the study of human behavior and motivation.
Of course Maslow’s is, but, just one theory to explain the hierarchy of human needs. Nevertheless, just about every theory, does put self-actualization (or) spiritual needs at the highest level.
The problem with modern “growth” oriented economics, is that it is well nigh impossible to even ponder over the highest order needs, let alone pursue them. Self-Esteem Needs (if I were to go by Maslow’s classification) can never cease to exist in today’s society. This is a lower order need that will never be fully sated. More is better. And that’s that.
It is also a question of proportions. Nobody claims that everyone will be able to become self-actualized or self-transcendent.
But the question is different – Is society structured so that it aims at needs 7 and 8 as the “end”, a “final vision”, so to speak, or should it restrict itself to dwelling on needs 1-6?
I wonder if incessant motion (progress, if you will) trivializes higher order needs.