Manfred Max Neef – In Memoriam

12 August 2019 – It is with great sadness that we receive the message of the passing of Manfred Max-Neef. Manfred was a close friend to both of us and long-time and highly appreciated member of the Club of Rome.

Ernst von Weizsäcker & Anders Wijkman
Honorary Presidents of the Club of Rome

Manfred was a renaissance person. His knowledge and expertise spanned a number of subjects. He is mostly known for his work as an alternative economist but his deep interest in culture and music is also worth mentioning. He was an outstanding pianist. His improvisations on the piano were master pieces.

Manfred´s academic work was rich and covered a number of important topics. He was a strong critic of conventional economics, ”the dismal science” as he used to call it. He was particularly critical of the way most economists view human nature, with the assumtion that human beings are mainly driven by self-interest and by a limitless cravings for material possessions.

As an alternative to the overly mechanistic approach of conventional economics, Manfred developed an alternative theory, Human-Scale Development – based on the satisfaction of fundamental human needs, on the generation of growing levels of self-reliance and of a sound relationship between humans, technology and nature. Manfred described our fundamental needs as constant through all cultures. Subsistence is but one of the needs. Crucially important for living healthy lives are needs such as freedom, protection, affection, participation and understanding.

Development is about people, not about things. Hence Manfred was an early critic of using GDP as an indicator of progress. He was a pioneer in redefining wealth, using the taxonomy of fundamental needs as an important entry-point.

Manfred´s work on human-scale development was widely recognised in different parts of the world. This being said, it is sad to note the limited influence Manfred´s theories have has so far on conventional economics. Homus economicus still dominates the discourse. This is one of the major reasons behind the serious social and environmental challenges of today.

We are absolutely positive that the world situation would have been far less chaotic and problematic if leading economists and politicians had paid more attention to the pioneering work of Manfred Max Neef. Manfred is no longer with us. But his ideas and spirit will linger on and hopefully help improve the quality of peoples lives for generations to come.

On behalf of the Membership, the Executive Committee and the Co-Presidents of the Club of Rome

Ernst von Weizsäcker Anders Wijkman
Honorary Presidents of the Club of Rome

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