The social construction of needs

Francis Buttle*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


This article relocates the concept of needs from a psychological frame of reference to an anthropological one. Defining needs as the requirements of a particular social life leads to the conclusion that needs vary both historically and geographically. This opposes the views of Abraham Maslow who conceived of needs as universal and instinctoid. This article suggests that needs are learned from the privileged discourse of a community. If marketing and advertising are the privileged discourses of 20th century Westernized cultures, we can conclude that they have a formative effect on needs. Other issues are the unsuitability of marketing researchers' principle investigative methods for needs research, marketers' ignorance of the needs of distant cultures and communities, and the potential that such ignorance has for wasteful deployment of limited marketing resources.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)197-210
Number of pages14
JournalPsychology & Marketing
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1989
Externally publishedYes


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