What is self-actualization and why should we care about it?
Self-Actualization can’t actually easily take place under Capitalism, because the man is putting us down! How can you realize your full potential when you are preoccupied with making sure you have a place to sleep, enough to eat, and a way to get laid. So let’s get into that and why it’s a thing.
There are a lot of theories out there and the simplest one is the cycle, the circuit that creates self-actualization.
Why yes, it’s actually incredibly subjective, person in my head representing all of Sapphire! Subjectivity does not change the fact that a person cannot be happy or productive (or live!) if they are sitting in a pile of human shit drinking water filled with amoebas that are going to kill them!
So that’s where the hierarchy comes in – and this is also where it is VERY clear to see that capitalism is limiting the majority of the world from reaching self-actualization.
So what is this Hierarchy?
Abraham Maslow theorized a lot about human motivation. His pyramid has the most fundamental needs at the bottom and self-transcendence/actualization at the top. This is not a food pyramid – you can’t just grab what you need from each stage and go.
Each stage has to be realized to have a fully transcended human.
Which sucks, because the majority of this pyramid relies on our abilities to find and secure resources, a fundamental hardship of capitalism.
So what is it?
I’m glad you asked, voice of Sapphire. Let’s start at the bottom.
The physiological needs at the bottom of the pyramid are basic things humans need to live. Not live happily, not even comfortably, but live period. This is shit like food, water, the ability to breath clean air, sleep, sex (not necessarily intercourse), the ability to excrete wastes, and homeostasis (think, equal and easy access to all of these things required for maintaining a human body past 3 days).
The preoccupation with this level of the pyramid happens in the very low-socioeconomic status (the homeless, jobless, wandering the streets) and the exploited people of the world (no infrastructure available to them for easy access to food, no water treatment plants, no environmental regulations to clean the air).
When a person rises above and is able to meet the physiological needs at the bottom of the pyramid, they enter into a part of society where they are required, for their safety, to participate in capitalism. This ensures their position qualifying and providing everything in the lowest level of the pyramid, but it makes safety a huge concern.
Modern humans have tried to satisfy this need with Unions – which were promptly demonized by the right because it provided a safety net that would allow low-class workers to think beyond their safety in life at the moment.
And before someone comes in here and says, MUH PROPERTY, safety of property is more like…there aren’t wild animals coming in and sniffing your bed and mauling you while you sleep. People aren’t trying to steal your car. You have your own toothbrush and don’t have to share, because hygiene and health are important factors to living semi-comfortably.
You could look at this purely psychologically and think, if someone were to break into your house and steal your shit, regardless of the status of society, you would probably feel unsafe, unless you have a weird kink or whatever (I'm not kinkshaming, at least, not right now).
It's the same tenant - it's safety of property, not just existence of property. So like, somebody isn't going to come in a steal your shit, or it's not going to burn down, or freeze due to unsafe conditions. It's not so much about personal property and hording your stuff, it's about guaranteeing that the things you have amassed to allow you to live are protected.
After the needs of general safety are met, people may have time to congregate and discuss ideas.
This is where real human uplifting happens. The exchange of ideas is the greatest cognitive advancement in the history of our species – without this exchange, we would be nothing. It fits, therefore, that only people who have enough capital can take part in these exchanges. Under capitalism, leisure time is a rare commodity – after taking care of our physiological needs, taking care of our safety needs in duality with the former becomes increasingly difficult. 40+ hour weeks exhaust people. They require more sleep to function. This leaves little time for socializing.
This is fairly straightforward. As I said before, self-perception cannot take place without others – and self-esteem is a huge proponent of self-perception.
In building this self-esteem, let’s say one has enough time to satisfy the social needs under the hierarchy. If there is time, and resources to satisfy the self-esteem needs, it is likely that a person owns the means of production, because self-perception under capitalism is directly related to class status. You feel like shit when you owe someone money, right? If you have hundreds of thousands of dollars to throw away, you don’t have to focus on the lower levels at all and can concentrate on creating an environment and surrounding yourself with people who make your self-perception positive.
Self-Actualization, self-transcendence, is very hard to reach. It is a goal for a lot of people striving to be moral, upstanding citizens, but the fact is, if you are concerned about your own wellbeing, it is impossible to be fully engaged and sensitive of the needs of the wellbeing of others.
This is not an insult. It is a fact of life. If you do not have enough resources to let yourself live a semi-comfortable life, then helping others becomes next to impossible. Here we have people under capitalism who have reached this stage – they don’t worry about the acquisition of Capital, and they continue to subjugate those under them by donating to charity – charities which barely provide the means to cover the first level of Maslow’s Hierarchy.