Self-Actualization under Capitalism LO14009

Ray Evans Harrell (mcore@IDT.NET)
Fri, 20 Jun 1997 00:52:37 -0700

Replying to LO13988 --

James Needham wrote:

> I have often wondered why Abraham Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs doesn't seem
> to apply in contemporary USA. Maslow believed that when a human satisfies
> his physical needs of air, water, food, clothing, shelter, sleep, sex, and
> security; he would then fill his metaphysical needs of belonging, esteem,
> and self-actualization. To reach this pinnacle of metaphysical development
> means human development within a family, community, industry,
> organization, profession, or calling to such a high level that the
> person's name becomes a pseudonym for excellence. But America doesn't
> measure success in terms of self-actualization. The measuring stick is
> graduated in terms of power, money and material possessions. This is
> probably why the typical American gets stuck in a loop of amassing food,
> clothing, shelter and material possessions instead of evolving upward.

To James and to the list:

This raises a question that I have argued with my wife over the last
couple of years. As she was taught Maslow in business psyc. the Hierarchy
is an order in time. As I read Maslow, the Hierarchy is a simultaneous
structure sort of like having feet, hands, sexuality and a brain. (In
fact we now find that the body itself is even more of a unit in that there
are brain neurons found in other parts of the body as well.)

For years I also thought Maslow was speaking of his Hierarchy as a
progression in time but now I am not so sure. After reading his
Eupsychian Management on this list, I now hear him speaking of people
"fixated" at various levels, but not at earlier time as in psycho-analytic
development, more like a limp from and old injury. He speaks of "normal"
like one would speak of walking. In learning to walk you use the entire
organism. Likewise in growth, if one is normal they use the entire
Hierarchy like a body. All parts of it are working at all times in a
coordinated movement. The issue becomes and efficiency of tension to
relaxation that allows the whole not to be diverted to any one part.

On the other hand he speaks of a "stuckness" or "fixation" in one part of
the Hierarchy, without the rest functioning properly, as an "illness."

So I'm questioning the first sentence. There is an order to growth but I
don't see how the Hierarchy schema is a growth pattern, according to the
way that I have been reading the Eupsychian Management book. He does
refer to an earlier book but I'm taking him at his word in the universe of
this text. Maybe his thought evolved as well. I would welcome any
correction by Maslow experts on this.

Maslow likes to talk about Native peoples and we also like to speak of
balance and wholeness.

As a contrast to the evolution of the whole self through cycles of growth
and a balance of values I would offer the following from People,
Performance and Pay by the Hay group Free Press 1996 pg.3

" has taken on a complex and significant role in defining and
communicating the essence of individuals and groups. With the possible
exception of religion, there is no stronger force in determining identity,
status, and personal value. In essence, pay is a proxy of self-worth.
What else--right or wrong--has the power to communicate everything from
where you stand in an organization to what you've done, to what you are
able to provide your family, to how you are able to live, to your place in
society? For most people, that power flows from their job or role--from
the work they do and from the compensation they receive for doing it."

And there you have the basis for most of economic theory with a movement
into money as information and definition of status. But does it work?
Not for me it doesn't. Nor does it work for the people that Maslow freely
uses as examples of success at self- actualization.


Ray Evans Harrell, artistic director
The Magic Circle Chamber Opera of New York


Ray Evans Harrell <mcore@IDT.NET>

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