Maslow’s Adendum: The Artists’ Paradigm

In my MBA class one of the weirder things we were asked to do to was to self-identify our social class based on a textbook list with a pretty strong bias.

In marketing terms, businesses look at groups of people to study their buying power, buying habits, buying preferences and figure out how best to make money off of them. I checked boxes indicating that I had the material values of the upper-upper, the social network in the middle-middle and the financial profile (historically) far below lower-lower. As I pondered this, I realized that most of my friends were in the same boat as I, making us undefinable targets for marketers. After pondering this I came to believe that for a minority of people, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is exactly inverted. I am referring to the Artist Class, though I suppose no one will ever study these people because there is no money it in. At least, in the short-term.

For the artistic temperament, self-actualization is all. They are willing to sacrifice safety, shelter, food, family, social acceptance, financial gain, everything on the imperative need to be themselves; to be true to themselves, to be all that they can be. When they develop some confidence in this, they then want to be accepted for who they are and build a place for themselves in the world, whereas previously they disdained the opinions of those who couldn’t value them. After years of toiling for little recognition or compensation, they start to want to indulge in a few material essentials, like a credit card, a car or a house with their name on the deed. And finally they start to want a little security, and begin to look for teaching jobs and other stable occupations that let them earn a living while practicing their craft and being themselves.

I see this tendency even in a child who knows in his heart that no one really listens to him, no one really understands him, no one sees him for who he really is or values him for his him-ness. We are all trying to stuff him into a box – for his own good – and his reactions repel us.

Given that this is being called the creative age from so many angles, I wonder what would happen if this small number of creative types were actually identified, invited into some kind of environment like the Centre for Social Innovation where they could develop some confidence that their self-ness wouldn’t be taken away, and then worked backwards from there to help make the world a better place. Is that what happened to me? Here at CSI I have found home, shelter (even food) acceptance, encouragement and all the support one could want for self-actualization and I wonder if that is the reason why I am now engaging in outreach, in (gag) cooperation, in helping others to self-actualize. And suddenly it makes me wonder, what’s next?

What if everyone was treated like an artist from the beginning and given these basic ingredients for life?


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