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- View topic - Stories: Beyond This Horizon (G.033ab) April/May 1942
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Stories: Beyond This Horizon (G.033ab) April/May 1942 
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Post Stories: Beyond This Horizon (G.033ab) April/May 1942
Unfortunately, I won't be around much for follow-up conversation about this (as I'm shipping out to Basic on Thursday) but I wanted to put down my thoughts on this before I forget.

A couple of days ago, I was putting up firewood and ruminating on connections between Maslow's hierarchy of needs and the themes in Heinlein's second-published novel Beyond This Horizon. I wondered if Maslow's theory was published early enough to have influenced Heinlein, or if they had simply reached similar conclusions independently. But with the internet not handy at the time, I forgot to follow up.

Then this evening, a web-based comic page that I follow, "Dinosaur Comics" based its latest gag on Maslow...
http://www.qwantz.com/comics/comic2-1583.png
...which reminded me to look into the timing question. It turns out that Maslow first published his hierarchy of needs concept in an article called "A Theory of Human Motivation" in Psychological Review in 1943, whereas Heinlein's novel was written in 1941 and first published as an Astounding serial in 1942.

For those who may not have heard of it, Maslow's hierarchy of needs is a theory about individual human motivations. It asserts that once a person's more basic needs are met, other needs that are less vital to survival come to the fore. From most basic to least the hierarchy levels start with physiological needs, then safety needs, social needs, esteem needs, self-actualization needs, and finally transcendent needs. (Here's the wiki link: .)

My assertion is that in Beyond This Horizon, Heinlein explores a very similar (if evidently independently conceived) needs-hierarchy concept, but as it effects society as a whole rather than the individual. Specifically, it explores the effect that the satisfaction of all of the lower level needs might have on the character of a society. "All of them should have been very happy —" are the first words of the novel, and its basic problem. Once the basic physiological and security needs of the individuals in a society are met sufficiently that they need no longer preoccupy them, will they be satisfied, or will they ask "now what?" Or as one of the protagonists, Hamilton Felix, might ask: "that's well and good, but why should I care? Or even lift a finger to perpetuate this? What's the point?"

Just as Maslow asserts that an individual who has met all of his more basic needs would then be impinged upon by transcendent (i.e. spiritual) needs, the solution proposed in the climax of Heinlein's novel is for society to seriously tackle the numinous questions of the universe, using the scientific method and all of the vast resources at their disposal. This is a solution to the problem in two different senses: if positive answers to the great philosophical questions are found, the question "what's the point?" may very well be answered, but in any case the search for such answers constitutes a good-enough-for-now answer to the "now what?" question.

Well, that's what I wanted to say about Maslow and Beyond This Horizon. Um... Thoughts?

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Tue Sep 29, 2009 9:59 pm
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Post Re: Stories: Beyond This Horizon (G.033ab) April/May 1942
Interesting thoughts there. I see BTH as expressing Maslow's self-actualization needs at the level of society; that there needs to be a challenge; the danger of achieving spectacular success in fulfilling basic needs will be the lack of something engaging to do. Explored frequently in other science fiction, e.g. "This Side of Paradise" in Star Trek:TOS, although you don't see it much today; in the 50's, progress was happening at such a rate as to encourage utopian speculations, where today the "progress" fosters dystopian speculations instead.


Wed Sep 30, 2009 2:18 am
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Post Re: Stories: Beyond This Horizon (G.033ab) April/May 1942
Heinlein did a good bit of utopian dreaming back then - see For Us, The Living. The theme can be seen in many of his early stories - e.g. Coventry, Requiem. Maslov's hierarchy was not so much original thinking but a codification of commonly held beliefs.

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Post Re: Stories: Beyond This Horizon (G.033ab) April/May 1942


Wed Sep 30, 2009 5:31 pm
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Post Re: Stories: Beyond This Horizon (G.033ab) April/May 1942

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Post Re: Stories: Beyond This Horizon (G.033ab) April/May 1942


Thu Oct 01, 2009 6:12 am
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Post Re: Stories: Beyond This Horizon (G.033ab) April/May 1942
Supplement: He seems to have had a firm grasp on Erikson's first five at least (later expanded to eight) life stages long before the Eriksons articulated them.


Thu Oct 01, 2009 6:15 am
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Post Re: Stories: Beyond This Horizon (G.033ab) April/May 1942
We must also remember Leslyn had a Masters in psychology from USC, and some of Maslow's ideas may have been floating about that way as well.


Mon Oct 05, 2009 11:38 am
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Post Re: Stories: Beyond This Horizon (G.033ab) April/May 1942
It begs the question if Maslow may have read Heinlein and thereby been influenced.

I'm not suggesting that Heinlein might be solely responsible for Maslow's thoughts. I'm suggesting that 'if' Maslow read Heinlein then Maslow's work may have had component parts that were influenced by Heinlein. I say components only because the timing here would have been pretty tight. If Heinlein published in 42 and Maslow published in 43 then Maslow would have been working on his publication prior to 1942. Is there possibility that reading Heinlein may have influenced Maslow in a subtle way as he was bringing his own publication to a close?

Footnote: I know nothing of Maslow. I had not even heard of him prior to this thread. There may be reasons that are obvious to others, but not to me, why the possibility is out of the question. I recognize that this is a remote possibility at most.


Tue Oct 06, 2009 7:55 am
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Post Re: Stories: Beyond This Horizon (G.033ab) April/May 1942
When I joined the Forum someone encouraged me to revive old threads.

Thus, this post.

I studied Maslow waaayyy back in my first year at Dear Old Pasadena CC when I was 17 (the 55-year-old psychology prof had a tendency to ramble about his marvelous new relationship with some hot young(ish) woman, but that's not relevant, anyway BACK to business...).

So I happen to have reread BTH just a couple of months ago, and it's fresh in mind. A point no one has raised--Maslow specifically studied "the 1%" (hehehe). In Motivation and Personality he writes: "[T]he study of crippled, stunted, immature, and unhealthy specimens can yield only a cripple psychology and a cripple philosophy."

This seems to me totally in line RAH's views on what was most interesting about humanity (the intelligent people), and the problems of living in a post-scarcity world. As was pointed out above. Maslow did not "invent" the Hierarchy of Needs in a vacuum. Rather, it was a making explicit and expanding on something any intelligent person understands about life.

The problems of living in the Utopia of BTH are problems of the elite. A key scene for me (this is from memory) is when Felix has a conversation with the control natural bartender. That man's family, his little struggles, his business are "enough." He is content in a way that Felix, and especially Clifford, cannot be. The organizers of the coup d'etat are shown to be at a party with the cream of "society," as well. Their desire for a violent revolution against a totally beneficent social order also seems to stem from the same lack of struggle that Felix is feeling.

Sergei, I note you haven't been around here for a year or so, hope you get a ping from this entry and drop by!

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Thu Nov 10, 2011 3:55 pm
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