“Maslow described human needs as ordered in a prepotent hierarchy—a pressing need would need to be mostly satisfied before someone would give their attention to the next highest need.” – Source: Wikipedia
The short description of Maslow’s idea is that until you fulfill on e level of needs you can’t get to the next. Maslow never graphically displayed these needs as a pyramid, but you can find examples in books, and on websites.
The bottom, most-fundamental level of needs, according to Maslow, is the physiological: Breathing, Food, Water, Sex, Sleep, Homeostasis, and Excretion
The top level is self-actualization: Morality, Creativity, Spontaneity, Problem-Solving, Lack of Prejudice, and Acceptance of Facts.
The 2nd-level in Maslow’s heirarchy is “Safety.” And, it’s in that level we find the words associated with safety like, “resources,” “property,” and, “employment.” Maslow associated “safety” with “employment,” or “security of” needs through some mechanism. This is a concept we see as a theme throughout society today, 43 years after Maslow’s death.
Why did Maslow see “employment” as a synonym for “safety?” I believe Maslow’s beliefs are a function of the time in which he lived. He was born in 1908 and was 21 at the start of the “Great Depression.” He witnessed the meltdown of financial markets not seen again until the mid 1970s, and again in 2007 to 2009.
Maslow surely knew people who were in need of food, and shelter. His parents were poor immigrants from Russia, who raised Maslow in a “working class neighborhood” in New York.
From a pure historic perspective, Maslow was born at the right time, and had the right background to believe “safety” and “employment” were synonymous.
However, the idea of “employment” is a relatively new concept in the history of man. Certainly, in the way you understand “employment,” the usage of the word would baffle most humans for the large expanse of time before the “Industrial Revolution.”
For, the word “employment,” assumes you are “under the employ” of someone. To be “employed” means you are at the whim of an owner for whom you work to provide profits. What Maslow saw as security is, in actual fact, the absence of security. It is to give up one’s self-reliance, independence, and ownership.
Think of all the people you know who believe they cannot survive without a “job” or without “employment.” Each of the people you know who believe that way literally believe – whether they know it or not – that their “security” comes at the behest of an owner.
In the personal “heirarchy of needs” for most Americans, the 2nd level begins with the assumption they are unable to provide for themselves, and must rely on someone else.
Americans are not alone in this view. Katy Barnato for CNBC reports today, “World unemployment could top record levels this year and continue rising until 2017, the International Labour Organization (ILO) said on Tuesday in its annual employment report.”
From the same article, “Unemployment remains as dire as it was during the crisis in 2009,” Ekkehard Ernst, chief of the employment trends unit at the ILO, which wrote the report, told CNBC. While the crisis may have originated in the developed world, the report noted that 75 percent of 2012′s newly unemployed came from outside it, with East Asia, South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa being the worst affected. Ernst attributed this to the “spillover effect” of weak growth in advanced economies, and in particular, the recession in Europe.
I do not believe it is hyperbole to say the idea of independence, self-reliance, and true financial security is passe. Out-of-date on the order of pre-Maslow’s Heirarchy of Needs.
Consider this: If you assume there are roughly eight billion people on the planet, and you assume 198 million of them are “unemployed,” and you assume the world is in a constant state of near-financial collapse…
…Then, you must concede the relative “safety” of the world’s population hinges on the “employment” of 2.48% of it’s population. For, that is the number currently estimated “unemployed” around the world.
If 2.48% is the margin between “safety” or poverty, the world may already be past the point where life is possible outside the whim of an ownership-class who are always one step above you in Maslow’s Heirarchy of Needs.