Abraham H. Maslow. Cultural-Bridge-builder through Psychology
Abraham Maslow was a US professor of psychology, most of his career at Brandeis University in Massachusetts.(1) Maslow’s writings cover a wide range from an early interest in anthropology to his later applications of humanistic psychology to business and education. His mature views are presented in The Farther Reaches of Human Nature (2). However, it is his work on the hierarchy of needs and the concept of self-actualization which are most directly related to the Basic Needs Approach to Development Planning.
Abraham Maslow constructed what he called a “Needs Hierarchy” which he believed was trans-cultural, appearing in all human beings, in all cultures. His model is a six-level model which depicts a human energy flowing upward with each need leading to the next level when fulfilled:
Physical Needs: food, water, clothing, shelter, hygiene, and health care.
Safety-Security Needs: the need for psychological and physical safety, freedom from fear.
Belonging Needs: the need for human relationship, affiliation to others, affection and psychological warmth.
Esteem Needs: the need for a positive image of self, a sense of inner dignity and value, respect and recognition from others.
Self-Actualization Needs: the need to develop one’s potential, for creative expression, a sense of direction of one’s life.
The need to commune with Nature, to become enlightened, to live in harmony with universal principles. The transcendent needs, what Maslow also calls the “value life” (spiritual, religious, philosophical) “is an aspect of human biology and is on the same continuum with the ‘lower’ animal life (rather than being in separated, dichotomized or mutually exclusive realms). It is probably therefore species-wide, supra-cultural even though it must be actualized by culture in order to exist.”
Evolving Process in All Human Beings
Abraham Maslow held that these needs are an unfolding, evolving process in all human beings everywhere. The ways in which needs are fulfilled are influenced by specific cultures, but the needs are universal, and society must be structured so that all these needs can be met. His emphasis is on the oneness of humanity.
If needs are not fulfilled, Maslow held, this will lead an individual or a larger group to “meta pathologies” such as meaninglessness, despair, apathy, resignation and fatalism. Thus we need to design and implement new social and economic arrangements that more closely fit the needs of human nature.
The first three levels of needs
The first three levels of needs − Physical Needs; Safety-Security Needs, and Belonging Needs − can be met within the household-family. It is on these three levels of needs that the ILO Basic Needs Approach is focused. Esteem Needs and Self-Actualization Needs are linked to the wider society and require cooperation with and action in the wider society.
Transcendent Needs are fulfilled both individually − a confidence that we are basically one with the cosmos instead of strangers to it − and within society as a person needs access to philosophical currents of thought in order to express to others this confidence in harmony.
A useful framework
Abraham Maslow provides a useful framework for using the Basic Needs Approach to Development Planning as based on the deepest nature of the person. Each person is an active, self-governing mover, chooser and center of his own life.
Citizens of the world have been in the lead to create a New Humanism for the twenty-first century in keeping with the UNESCO call for “the development of a universal global consciousness based on dialogue in a climate of trust and mutual understanding.” World Citizens welcome the UNESCO-led Decade for the Rapprochement of Cultures (2013-2022). Thus we highlight the creative efforts of individuals who have built bridges of understanding over the divides of cultures, social classes and ethnicity to create a foundation for the New Humanism.
- For an overview of Maslow’s life and writings see Edward Hoffman (Ed.) The Right to be Human: A Bibliography of Abraham Maslow (Los Angeles, CA: Tarcher Publishers, 1988)
- Abraham H. Maslow. The Father Reaches of Human Nature (New York: The Viking Press, 1971)
Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens