Economics at your fingertips  

Deriving the Engel Curve: Pierre Bourdieu and the Social Critique of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

Andrew Trigg

Review of Social Economy, 2004, vol. 62, issue 3, 393-406

Abstract: In Post Keynesian Economics, theorists have sought an alternative to neoclassical choice theory by turning to Maslow's hierarchy of needs (Pasinetti 1981, Lavoie 1992). Instead of each individual surveying a complete choice set, individuals prioritize (basic) physiological needs, moving with increasing incomes to satisfy safety and social needs, through to the higher needs associated with self-actualization. This framework provides a theoretical foundation for the Engel curve, since as incomes increase consumers become satiated when particular needs are satisfied. As an alternative to the neoclassical preoccupation with prices and substitution, a Post Keynesian theory of consumption has been formulated with income effects as the cornerstone. The main problem with Maslow's approach is that individual needs are innate, so that questions of social interaction and culture are seriously downgraded. In this article, the social theory of Pierre Bourdieu is offered as an alternative to the Maslow approach, providing the basis for a social critique of consumerism and an alternative evolutionary theory of consumption. In this approach, the structure of the social hierarchy both constrains the consumption of lower social strata and leads to subtle, less conspicuous consumption patterns at the top of the social hierarchy: a scenario that could provide a social foundation to the Engel curve.

Keywords: Maslow; hierarchy of needs; Post Keynesian; consumption; culture; Engel curve; Bourdieu; evolutionary theory (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2004
References: View complete reference list from CitEc
Citations: View citations in EconPapers (6) Track citations by RSS feed

Downloads: (external link) (text/html)
Access to full text is restricted to subscribers.

Related works:
This item may be available elsewhere in EconPapers: Search for items with the same title.

Export reference: BibTeX RIS (EndNote, ProCite, RefMan) HTML/Text

Persistent link:

Ordering information: This journal article can be ordered from

DOI: 10.1080/0034676042000253987

Access Statistics for this article

Review of Social Economy is currently edited by Wilfred Dolfsma and John Davis

More articles in Review of Social Economy from Taylor & Francis Journals
Bibliographic data for series maintained by Chris Longhurst ().

Page updated 2020-09-04
Handle: RePEc:taf:rsocec:v:62:y:2004:i:3:p:393-406