Thanks for citing Maslow. There’s nothing like a good old psychology model to start a discussion!
Maslow’s model is highly U.S.-centric. He studied only a few volunteers whom he had described as “self-actualising”. He proceeded to work downwards towards more basic elements in his model. The descriptors at each level were developed to match the narratives of those few individuals (Boeree, 2006). Subsequent research has shown that the model works reasonably well in the U.S. context. However, (and I can’t locate the article right now that supports this statement…) it isn’t a good fit for non-U.S. cultures. For example, Maslow’s prioritising of the individual (Pearson & Podeschi, 1999) runs counter to core Asian.
Is there a possibility that of confusing want with need?
At the very base of this argument lies the notion of free will and determinism. Hard-line determinists argue that everything we do is ultimately outside of our control. They place all action inside the boundaries of need. This position, though, is very hard to defend and it leads to many logical contradictions. Nevertheless, there are many outside factors that influence our thoughts and feelings at the core level. So, we can’t be free from some of the power of determinism. We do have choice. At which point can we say that we have a choice? When we have that choice, we can separate between need and want.
Boeree, C. G. (2006). Abraham Maslow. Personality Theories. Retrieved from http://webspace.ship.edu/cgboer/maslow.html May 20, 2015.
Pearson, E. M. & Podeschi, R. L. (1999). Humanism and individualism: Maslow and his critics. Adult Education Quarterly, 50(1), 41-55.