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Vital MinimumNeed, Science, and Politics in Modern France$
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Dana Simmons

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780226251561

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: January 2016

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226251738.001.0001

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Need, Nature, and Society

Need, Nature, and Society

(p.161) Chapter 9 Need, Nature, and Society
Vital Minimum

Dana Simmons

University of Chicago Press

This concluding chapter considers human needs and standards of living as techno-scientific entanglements of nature and society. The chapter speculates that there were no human needs, in a scientific or political sense, before the age of wage labor. “Needs” express an economic order (the distribution of limited resources,) and a social order (the organization of human differences.) Needs became a problem precisely when both sides of that equation - the social and the material - were subject to choice (through political action) and transformation (through improved nutrition and industrial activity.) Demographer Robert Fogel calls this a moment of “technophysio evolution.” Revolutionary scientists turned to nature as a guide for social organization. Later sociologists and workers’ unions sought to uncover ‘real’ human needs in family budgets and social statistics. In this, the “Limits to Growth” era, human needs once again appear to fall under nature’s ruler. The chapter concludes with a challenge to the historical opposition of nature and society.

Keywords:   needs, standards of living, wage labor, social theory, technophysio evolution, natural history, consumption, industrialization

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