Manfred Max-Neef is a Chilean economist who has gained an international reputation for his work and writing on development alternatives. In addition to a long academic career, Max-Neef achieved an impressive minority vote when he stood as candidate in the Chilean Presidential election of 1993. He was subsequently appointed Rector of the Universidad Austral de Chile in Valdivia.
After teaching economics at the University of California (Berkeley) in the 1960s, he served as a Visiting Professor at a number of US and Latin American universities. He has worked on development projects in Latin America for the Pan-American Union, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization and the International Labour Office.
In 1981 he wrote the book for which he is best known, From the Outside Looking In: Experiences in Barefoot Economics, published by the Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation, Sweden. It describes his experiences as an economist attempting to practise 'economics as if people matter' among the poor in South America. In the same year he set up in Chile the organisation CEPAUR (Centre for Development Alternatives).
CEPAUR is largely dedicated to the reorientation of development in terms of stimulating local self-reliance and satisfying fundamental human needs. More generally, it advocates a return to the human scale. CEPAUR acts as a clearing-house for information on the revitalisation and development of small and medium-sized urban and rural communities; it researches new tools, strategies and evaluative techniques for such development, assists with projects aiming at greater local self-reliance and disseminates the results of its research and experience.
In Human Scale Development, published in 1987 in Spanish and later in English, Max-Neef and his colleagues at CEPAUR outline a new development paradigm based on a revaluation of human needs. Needs are described as existential (having, doing, being) and as axiological (values) and the things needed to satisfy them are not necessarily dependent upon, or commensurate with, the kinds or quantities of economic goods available in any given society. The book seeks to counter the logic of economics with the ethics of well-being.
He received the National Prize for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights, Chile, and the Kenneth Boulding Award from the International Society for Ecological Economics in 2008. The Soka University, Japan, bestowed on him the University Award of Highest Honour. He received honorary degrees of the University of Jordan and the Saint Francis University (Loretto, Pennsylvania).
Universidad Austral de Chile