Here’s the rub… the more we have, the more we seem to need. People express a continuum of needs from drinking water on one hand to a Maserati on the other. Who is to say when on the continuum these needs become illegitimate? “Needs are social,” claims Burns (2007). “The conflict over their legitimacy, their meaning, their extent, their satisfaction, take political form” (Burns, 2007). We see this in the world whenever one person or group of people dictate the level of another person or group’s need satisfaction (church charity, government aid, etc.).
In my reading this week, Burns (2007) compares Rousseau and Marx’s philosophies on wants and needs, although he admits that even they hesitate to draw the line where wants should become socially-recognized needs. The chapter’s discussion did lead to a revelation about the nature of leadership. Burns (2007) says, “leadership has its origins in the responsiveness of leaders to followers’ wants, and in followers’ responsiveness to leaders’ articulation of needs, empowering both leaders and followers in the struggle for change.” In a way, we have a “chicken-and-the-egg” scenario between leadership and man’s needs.
Keller (2010) explores the idea of generosity by acknowledging the several commands of God to give. When we give, we are releasing our ‘needs’ in preference to others’ needs. For example, when we give someone our forgiveness and mercy, we are giving up our claim on revenge and justice.
In my field of work, I might find myself in a position to distribute corporate money in either the form of wages or charity. If I do, I will be evaluating peoples’ needs and, especially in the case of charity, defining the difference between someone else’s wants and needs. When I am in positions of leadership, I will also have to prioritize the needs and wants of those I lead.
- Burns, James MacGregor (2007-12-01). Transforming Leadership. Grove/Atlantic, Inc.. Kindle Edition.
- Keller, Timothy (2010-11-02). Generous Justice: How God’s Grace Makes Us Just. Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.