Understanding Max-Neef's model of human needs as a practical toolkit for supporting development work and societal transitions

Des Gasper*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter/Conference proceedingChapterAcademic

38 Downloads (Pure)


Max-Neef's model of human needs continues to be quite widely used, across many contexts. It contains (1) a matrix of fundamental needs and diverse satisfiers; (2) a theorisation of types of satisfiers; (3) a methodology for satisfier specification, for use in diagnosing current systems, sketching preferred alternatives, and considering how to move towards them. This chapter considers not only the famous matrix but the model's purposes, contexts of emergence and use, and theorisation of satisfiers and satisfier specification. Part One outlines how it emerged to support “Human Scale Development” and “Barefoot Economics” in Latin America. It continues in use 35 years later, in a range of settings. Part Two notes that Max-Neef's distinctive contribution was to enrich thinking about satisfiers, through considering multiple existential modes, multiple types, and the impacts of satisfiers on multiple needs. He handled his concepts as practical tools to investigate (alternative) patterns of living. Part Three notes some of the range of applications, for diverse levels and topics; by Max-Neef himself and close collaborators, especially for local sustainable development; and by various recent authors not connected to Max-Neef, in situation assessments of the lives of poor and marginalised groups, and for creative policy design and planning.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationBeyond Ecological Economics and Development
Subtitle of host publicationCritical Reflections on the Thought of Manfred Max-Neef
EditorsLuis Valenzuela Rivera, Maria del Valle Barrera
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherTaylor and Francis AS
Number of pages21
ISBN (Electronic)9781000934366
ISBN (Print)9781032463261
Publication statusPublished - 25 Aug 2023

Publication series

SeriesRoutledge Frontiers of Political Economy

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2024 selection and editorial matter, Luis Valenzuela and María del Valle Barrera.


Dive into the research topics of 'Understanding Max-Neef's model of human needs as a practical toolkit for supporting development work and societal transitions'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this