Manfred Max-Neef: the Barefoot Economist


Richard Moore

Thanks Gayle!

Begin forwarded message:
From: “A. Gayle Hudgens”
Date: 12 February 2011 15:23:07 GMT
To: Richard Moore <•••@••.•••>
Subject: Re: systems thinking, continued…

In thinking about some of the items in your post, I thought you might want to learn more about the Chilean economist, Manfred Max-Neef (aka the Barefoot Economist), who was interested in localization, political economy, ‘dynamic’ dialogue, decentralization, and even used a type of parallelism.

He developed a Universal Human Needs concept that satisfies many people. Those needs include: Subsistence, Protection, Affection, Understanding, Participation, Idleness, Creation, Identity, and Freedom. Not quite universal yet is the need for Transcendence (a need for satisfying spiritual aspects of our lives). (It is important to recognize that these are nothing like Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, which were limited to the psychological realm.)

How we satisfy these universal human needs in a legitimate manner depends greatly on how the political economy is designed. Max-Neef offered locally based, bottom-up, grassroots workshops which empowered the formerly powerless to create more satisfying and sustainable lives and livelihoods.  His progressive work is well-worth incorporating in the localization and transition movements.  

Incidentally, Max-Neefs workshops were full of ‘dynamic’ dialogue long before anyone used that term! He also incorporated decentralization and parallelism into his thinking. Working with peasants or small communities, he helped groups understand decentralization. By virtue of his ‘universal’ human needs, groups recognized that people everywhere had like (parallel) needs. How they satisfied those needs, however, were often not parallel (i.e., they were satisfied in illegitimate ways, as Max-Neef often said). 

Below are some video clips from Democracy Now! and other links of interest for those wanting to learn more about Max-Neef.

The book that best outlines his thinking is Human Scale Development 1991, Apex Press, New York and London.  It may still be available from Apex Press.


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