Sunday, March 15, 2009

Maslow's hierarchy and the culture wars

In terms of Maslow's heirarchy, an individual cannot seek higher-order functioning until all lower order needs are met. For example, one can't find friendship or contemplate morality until his/her worries about food and shelter are met. In this same fashion, our country is less concerned with moral values issues when military and/or economic difficulties remain to be solved. The culture wars are higher order debates, only reviewable when lower order needs are met. As such, the 2006 election was a referendum on the war in Iraq and the 2008 elections highlighted the electorate's anxiety with the current financial mess. The battles of 2004 have been put on the back-burner, as our security, both military and financial, are front an center.

Frank Rich, op-ed columnist for the Washington Post, alluded to this yesterday, although not his main point. Using Roosevelt's ending of prohibition a guide, Rich believes Obama's stances on embryonic stem cell research, and the future issue of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," have met/will be met with little uprising; we are more concerned with the financial crisis. Money quote:
Here, at last, is one piece of good news in our global economic meltdown: Americans have less and less patience for the intrusive and divisive moral scolds who thrived in the bubbles of the Clinton and Bush years. Culture wars are a luxury the country — the G.O.P. included — can no longer afford.
This all doesn't mean the culture wars are dead. They are higher order concerns, and currently the nation is suffering from lower order problems: safety before self-actualization in Maslow's terms. When these are "resolved," I am sure the issues of abortion, gay marriage, and/or the new moral value issue will re-emerge. Rich agrees:
History is cyclical, and it would be foolhardy to assume that the culture wars will never return.


Darren Staley said...

This is getting into my wheel house a bit. Maslow is a key component when it comes to Criminology.

I wrote a report a few years ago that turned Maslow's pyramid into a game of Jenga in regards to criminal activity and more broadly psychology.

You can remove one aspect and this only tilts the tower. But losing just one weakens the stability. The more pieces you remove, the weaker the structure.

My point is that all of the needs must be in place from birth to adulthood in order to make a well rounded individual.

This is rare, of course. Most of us get some of these but not all. The more pieces you remove, the more likely that the tower will crumble.

All that said, I agree with Rich on this. Once the tower has fallen, you have to start a new game from scratch with a better strategy.

Right now the Democrats are offering to give us every piece of the puzzle. Republicans are telling us that some pieces can not or should not be had.

Regardless of where you come down ideologically, it is easy to see which side the voters will prefer.

Anonymous said...

Good points Darren. Well said.

Anonymous said...

The correct spelling is "hierachy".
(Kindly remove this comment after use)

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