Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Applied to Society

If you’re not familiar, review Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

I believe in America, as a society, removing the outliers, most people have physiological needs covered, and are moving towards the self-esteem phase, with more people than ever heading towards self-actualization. That’s not to say that things are peachy all around and that everyone is doing great, but if you had to average things out, this is where I think we stand.

Consider, at one point 80% of Americans worked on farms. That was necessity to produce the food needed for our physiological needs. Today, less than 1% work on farms and there is enough food to go around. Our efficiency went up 80X. With that shift thanks to industrialism owning a home became the American dream. That’s a shift from physiological rungs, to the self-esteem rung. Being an owner is about our ego.

Then, out of nowhere the Internet brought social belonging. It connected groups that weren’t connected before. Created havens for like-minded individuals. Everyone starting connected to the web, and over the last couple decades, we’ve reached the love/belonging stage of society. Those that don’t find their groups are the “trolls” of society, and they are highly vocal making it seem more people are unhappy than ever.

It’s tumultuous for sure. Most people are living longer, have more possessions, are connected to more family than a few generations ago, but it’s not always viewed that way. Everyone is looking forward not backward. They want to move up the rungs of the hierarchy. They see more people than ever finding their purpose and want that same feeling, or respect, and if they don’t see it immediately, they become negative. This is the real reason why so many feel there is a degradation of society happening. It’s counter intuitive but my thought is we’re getting more of our needs met, pushing society higher up the pyramid, but the higher tiers of pyramid are harder to access, and a lot of society feels stuck as a result.

For something based on a pyramid, and the idea that not everyone gets through all the rungs, speculatively, the largest amount of the people in history are reaching the self-actualization or transcendence stage with the growing rise of things like social entrepreneurism, building companies that support others who can’t support themselves. Doing work that raises those on the lower rungs of the hierarchy up.

This entire post is broad strokes. These things happen in waves that are measured over generations, so it’s hard for any person to truly see it all. But, I believe the future, often painted as dystopian, actually has a lot of positive going for it, we just have to solve some problems along the way.

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