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Human Needs and Human-scale Development, developed by Manfred Max-Neef and others (Antonio Elizalde and Martin Hopenhayn), are seen as ontological (stemming from the condition of being human), are few, finite and classifiable (as distinct from the conventional notion of conventional economic "wants" that are infinite and insatiable).
They are also constant through all human cultures and across historical time periods. What changes over time and between cultures is the strategies by which these needs are satisfied. Human needs can be understood as a system - i.e. they are interrelated and interactive. In this system, there is no hierarchy of needs (apart from the basic need for subsistence or survival) as postulated by Western psychologists such as Maslow, rather, simultaneity, complementarity and trade-offs are features of the process of needs satisfaction.
Manfred Max-Neef and his colleagues developed a taxonomy of human needs and a process by which communities can identify their "wealths" and "poverties" according to how their fundamental human needs are satisfied.
This school of Human Scale Development is described as "focused and based on the satisfaction of fundamental human needs, on the generation of growing levels of self-reliance, and on the construction of organic articulations of people with nature and technology, of global processes with local activity, of the personal with the social, of planning with autonomy, and of civil society with the state."
One of the applications is within the field of Strategic Sustainable Development where the individual Fundamental Human Needs (not the marketed needs) and the mechanics of the collective social system need satisfying in a sustainable society. Together with other aspects of the Framework including the (socio-ecological) sustainability principles it helps to plan and design for sustainability.
Max-Neef classifies the fundamental human needs as:
Needs are also defined according to the existential categories of being, having, doing and interacting, and from these dimensions, a 36 cell matrix is developed 
|Need||Being (qualities)||Having (things)||Doing (actions)||Interacting (settings)|
|subsistence||physical and mental health||food, shelter, work||feed, clothe, rest, work||living environment, social setting|
|protection||care, adaptability, autonomy||social security, health systems, work||co-operate, plan, take care of, help||social environment, dwelling|
|affection||respect, sense of humour, generosity, sensuality||friendships, family, relationships with nature||share, take care of, make love, express emotions||privacy, intimate spaces of togetherness|
|understanding||critical capacity, curiosity, intuition||literature, teachers, policies, educational||analyse, study, meditate, investigate,||schools, families, universities, communities,|
|participation||receptiveness, dedication, sense of humour||responsibilities, duties, work, rights||cooperate, dissent, express opinions||associations, parties, churches, neighbourhoods|
|leisure||imagination, tranquility, spontaneity||games, parties, peace of mind||day-dream, remember, relax, have fun||landscapes, intimate spaces, places to be alone|
|creation||imagination, boldness, inventiveness, curiosity||abilities, skills, work, techniques||invent, build, design, work, compose, interpret||spaces for expression, workshops, audiences|
|identity||sense of belonging, self-esteem, consistency||language, religions, work, customs, values, norms||get to know oneself, grow, commit oneself||places one belongs to, everyday settings|
|freedom||autonomy, passion, self-esteem, open-mindedness||equal rights||dissent, choose, run risks, develop awareness||anywhere|
Max-Neef further classifies Satisfiers (ways of meeting needs) as follows.
Human Scale Development:] Conception, application and further reflections. By Manfred A. Max-Neef with contributions from Antonio Elizalde Martin Hopenhayn (1991)
Examples of application: