Current Issues in Ecological Economics series
Edited by Lucia A. Reisch and Inge Røpke
Chapter 11: Community, reflexivity and sustainable consumption
209 Clearly we ‘need’ something if we will die without it. Our survival depends on meeting certain needs, such as basic nutrition, warmth and healthcare. Max-Neef (1991) points out the distinction between needs (for example, for nutrition) and satisﬁers (for example, bread). We often choose ‘false satisﬁers’ and in any case, meeting our needs does not necessarily make us satisﬁed. Maslow (1954) suggested that this is partly because we have many different types of needs, and when we satisfy one, another takes its place. He suggested that in addition to basic physiological requirements, we have ‘needs’ for belongingness, esteem and self-actualisation. Perhaps we can agree on some basic and universal human needs (Doyal and Gough 1991) but appropriate satisﬁers depend on the social context. We can understand some needs in terms of the capabilities required to function satisfactorily in society and hence to ﬂourish (Sen 1993). Satisﬁers may include appropriate clothing, mobility, education and much else. Nussbaum interprets capabilities as freedoms, and hence as rights (Nussbaum 1998). In the welfare state, which promises both justice and security, the presumption is that people’s needs should be met. To be in need is to suffer. To neglect others’ needs is to be heartless and immoral. But in casual use, the word ‘need’ is now used for anything that we lack or desire. Hence it has lost some of its earlier moral force. Yet it retains a currency in justifying the actions of businesses, which must produce more...
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