Sustainability of needs?

In the book Design for the Real World, Victor Papanek argues the difficulty of separating needs from wants1. Attempting to understand this same question, two scholars’ theories are reviewed: Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of Needs Pyramid and Manfred Max Neef’s sustainable development theory.

Max-Neef argues that for human scale sustainable development understanding the relationship between needs and satisfiers is important, he emphasises that needs are finite and identical in all cultures and historical periods; what varies and what defines cultures and societies is how they choose to satisfy their needs2. Maslow already discussed these notions as he claimed that depending on their culture, people could choose to satisfy their common ultimate goals (needs) in different ways3.

Both authors claim that low physiological needs such as food and shelter are primary, dominant and universal, moreover, they state that the fulfilment of the remaining groups of needs (such as safety, protection, esteem, identity…) is also fundamental for human growth4 5, therefore it is argued that they should all be taken into consideration in discussions of sustainable development and visions of sustainable lifestyles; accordingly, understanding the difference between needs and satisfiers, and the role culture plays in defining them, can guide the exploration into more sustainable alternatives to meet the same groups of needs.


1. Papanek, Victor. Design for the Real World. New York, USA: Bantam Books, Inc., 1973.
2. Max-Neef, Manfred. Human Scale Development. New York, USA: The Apex Press, 1991. 31. eBook.
3. Ruby, Allison. Maslow’s Theory of Motivation and Hierarchy of Human Needs: A Critical Analysis. Berkeley, USA: University of California, 2003. 13. eBook.
4. Ruby, Allison. 21-22.
5. Max-Neef. 33-34.

One Response to “Sustainability of needs?”
Check out what others are saying...
  1. […] can be perfectly happy in a condition of desire (given that -basic- needs are met), by looking at oneself from outside, realising that one is complete even though one does […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: