– Dr. BP Badal

Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Human Need” theory is incomplete. The basic human need was defined by famous psychologist Abraham Maslow, who has developed a list of human needs that people now call the Hierarchy of Human Needs. He published the list in the 1940s and became the most referenced list of human needs in many discipline.  According to him at the beginning human being need to satisfy physiological (food, clothes, shelter, sanitation, education health) at first, safety needs (free from any kind of risk) second, Love needs, self-esteem, and self-actualization need third, fourth and fifth level human needs.  Is the first basic need of a human being is food?

Social sciences are not limited to psychology or economics or anthropology but it has to address entire humanity and its environment. This theory of Maslow has been used in many disciplines to define basic human needs. The world employment program of the International Labor Organization (ILO) has categorized the basic needs approach is one of the major approaches to the measurement of absolute poverty in developing countries on the basis of Maslow’s thesis. It has attempted to define the absolute minimum resources necessary for long-term physical well-being, usually in terms of consumption goods at a basic level. The poverty line is then defined as the amount of income required to satisfy those basic needs. The ‘basic needs’ approach was introduced by the International Labor Organization’s World Employment Conference in 1976.

Since the time of mercantilism, around 1500 AD, the economy was in the hand of elites. It was simply a revised barter system. The revised system and enlargement of monetary economics led to the development of capitalism. Capitalism developed the classical economy Adam Smith, generally known as the father of Economics in 1776 gave economics as a study of wealth it directed the globe towards wealth. People began to earn wealth. The educated elites began to invest in production. Another influential economist believes in production creates its own demand. It was false, so the great depression of 1930 has appeared. Then the Keynesian economy started although it gave the importance of the role of government and development of infrastructures for further enhancement of capital, production, and profit. In the race of generation of money, Karl Marks gave antithesis. He emphasized the production and labor against capitalism.  Marxism is confused about investment and reinvestment in the course of the race of wealth production and capitalism. Both the ways were rigid up to the bracket of science and their strong prejudices over assumptions. The world faced big two world wars and divided into two poles of capitalists and communists.

Europeans expanded their political power to the colonization on the world and exploited and gathered the treasurers in Europe. Politically the colonization was terminated but its hangover around the world’s largest civilizations was in great suffering. English became a common language and education. Production and capitalism became the profession of each human being. Everything was in the framework of the quantity of giving and take. In the race of capital formation, the world forgot the humanism, happiness, environment, and local culture. The development of science and technology was simply a tool of wealth maximization. The development of airplanes, rocket, submarine, internet everything even medical equipment was also developed to develop capitalism. No one knows the satisfaction equilibrium of capitalization and wealth maximization. The crazy rat race of capitalism is increasing but some rational sustainable development economists from the world and very few in number are raising the question to ease the move.

Liberal economists of the 1990’s decade and neoliberal economists of 2010’s decade are more liberal toward sustainable development. However, the hangover of the 1950’s decade in modernism is still prevailing in some scholars. The definition of basic human needs is still taught in the same traditional way of 1950. According to the basic needs are food, shelter, clothes, health, and education. If it is the basic needs, before the feeling of these specified needs, a human being needs land to get born up, air to breath, energy to grow up, water to survive, and the atmosphere to live. These are the pre-basic needs. By fulfilling the basic needs then only we can ask for basic needs like food and shelters. Thus it is the time to change the meaning and definition of basic needs on human needs. Because it starts with natural resources and basic human rights.

Normally, as the fire so is the flame, as the flame so is smoke, as the smoke so is the cloud, as the cloud so is the rain, as the rain so is the crop, as the crop so is the food, and as the food is the life. Thus pre-basic needs are fire(fuel), ether, air, water, and land to life. The oriental philosophy based on Hinduism or Buddhism, the five elements of which the entire cosmos is built up, are also in human beings. These five elements are as mentioned are earth, ether, air, fire, and water. These five elements are pre-basic needs. After the existence of (air, earth, ether, fire, and water) five elements then only life exists. First of all, life is necessary. Food, clothes, shelter, health, education is necessary for life.

Purposed and revised Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Human Need” theory

(Author’s Revision on chart developed by Maslow)

The most important issue is human life or the lives of an entire living organism. This is an era of sustainable development. Environmental protection is a burning issue in every sector of the human profession. Thus every discipline should revise the base of basic needs that starts from nature.

Modern science hesitates to support the classical elements as the material basis of the physical world. Atomic theory classifies atoms into more than a hundred chemical elements such as hydrogen, helium, oxygen, iron, etc. The most commonly observed states of matters like solid, liquid, gas, and plasma share many attributes with the classical elements of earth, ether, water, air, and fire, respectively, but these states are in similar behavior of different types of atoms at similar energy levels. A molecule contains a minimum unit of a group of two or more atoms that form the smallest identifiable unit of a substance that can be divided at the smallest unit of chemical properties of that substance. It means each molecule is the smallest component of these basic five elements as electron, proton, and neutron. Thus it is the time to change the philosophy of basic human needs from pre-basic human needs.

To achieve sustainable development goals, the Agenda for Sustainable Development has brought a holistic way of looking at development issues, recognizing that social and economic development depends on the sustainable management of our planet’s natural resources. So, natural capital stocks and ecosystem service flows underpin on land, water, air, ether, and fire or fuel by all human activities toward achieving the goals. Simply let’s add pre-basic elements of basic needs in our any future studies, discourses, and discussions.

(Dr. Badal teaches Rural Development in Central Department of Rural Development, Tribhuvan University)