Human Needs

human needs met as a system If the definition of a sustainable society involves meeting human needs, it is worth asking what human needs are, and whether or not the system we are designing meets real human needs in a synergistic and positively reinforcing way. This image shows a network image, with the 9 categories of human needs that have been identified by Manfred Max-Neef's work with Human Scale Development. These needs are constant in all cultures - what varies is how we satisfy the needs, and it is in the satisfaction of needs that cultural diversity can be found.

The use of the network metaphor helps to show that these needs are seen as an interrelated system, not as a hierarchy (once the need for subsistence has been met). Many advertisements use the suggestion of satisfaction of some of these human needs in order  to sell commodities, (e.g. buy this watch and you'll have leisure, buy this car and you will have freedom). This helps to show both how deeply these needs run, and also how frequently we use vast quantities of materials to try to supply them, sometimes in a way which actually inhibits the satisfying of one or more of human needs.

Human Scale Development, Apex Press, 1991, by Manfred Max Neef, winner of the Right Livelihood Award.