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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: Maslow.)

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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Wed Sep 30, 2009 6:59 am
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Post Re: Stories: Beyond This Horizon (G.033ab) April/May 1942
sergeial wrote:
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?

I don't think Maslow originated those thoughts, so much as he systematized thinking that had been "in the air" for a couple of decades by the time he wrote them up.

I think Heinlein said somewhere that he specifically conceived Beyond This Horizon (one of its working titles was "Problem Child") to be the very first post-Utopian work. Once the basic economic problems have been solved (the basis for the important utopias of the last 60-70 years at that point), what next for humanity? So there is a very natural fit with Maslow's hierarchy of values. He's just done with that concept what Korzybski did with time-binding: applied it to the entire human race as an organism.


Wed Sep 30, 2009 5:31 pm
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Post Re: Stories: Beyond This Horizon (G.033ab) April/May 1942
BillPatterson wrote:
I don't think Maslow originated those thoughts, so much as he systematized thinking that had been "in the air" for a couple of decades by the time he wrote them up.

BillPatterson wrote:
So there is a very natural fit with Maslow's hierarchy of values. He's just done with that concept what Korzybski did with time-binding: applied it to the entire human race as an organism.


I may be reading too much into it, but it seems impressive to me the way that Heinlein expands the scope of the concept before Maslow had published his systematization of it on an individual level. Until I checked the publication timeline, I just assumed that Heinlein had read Maslow before writing Horizon.

BillPatterson wrote:
I think Heinlein said somewhere that he specifically conceived Beyond This Horizon (one of its working titles was "Problem Child") to be the very first post-Utopian work. Once the basic economic problems have been solved (the basis for the important utopias of the last 60-70 years at that point), what next for humanity?


Yes, that's what I was getting at as being the core theme of the novel. I'd love to read the correspondence (or what?) you're referring to where he comes right out and says that. I really need to spend some money and time on the Heinlein Archives when I have a little of both to spare.

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Wed Sep 30, 2009 6:50 pm
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Post Re: Stories: Beyond This Horizon (G.033ab) April/May 1942
sergeial wrote:
BillPatterson wrote:
I don't think Maslow originated those thoughts, so much as he systematized thinking that had been "in the air" for a couple of decades by the time he wrote them up.

BillPatterson wrote:
So there is a very natural fit with Maslow's hierarchy of values. He's just done with that concept what Korzybski did with time-binding: applied it to the entire human race as an organism.


I may be reading too much into it, but it seems impressive to me the way that Heinlein expands the scope of the concept before Maslow had published his systematization of it on an individual level. Until I checked the publication timeline, I just assumed that Heinlein had read Maslow before writing Horizon.

BillPatterson wrote:
I think Heinlein said somewhere that he specifically conceived Beyond This Horizon (one of its working titles was "Problem Child") to be the very first post-Utopian work. Once the basic economic problems have been solved (the basis for the important utopias of the last 60-70 years at that point), what next for humanity?


Yes, that's what I was getting at as being the core theme of the novel. I'd love to read the correspondence (or what?) you're referring to where he comes right out and says that. I really need to spend some money and time on the Heinlein Archives when I have a little of both to spare.

Can't disagree regarding the impressiveness of it. There are several (especially early) stories that anticipate later thinking -- I'm particularly thinking of "'Let There Be Light'" as anticipating codependency as a feminist issue not identified as such until the 1970's.

The letter in question (to JWC, 9/25/41) has already been at least partly published in Grumbles, but if you want to read it in full get the file of Heinlein-Campbell correspondence. (That file was lost for 20 years or so, incidentally: after reviewing it for Grumbles Ginny put it in a box marked for The Puppet Masters lawsuit and [restricted]. Apparently nobody looked inside the box until I was going through and trying to get the manuscripts in some kind of rational order in 2004).
Heinlein wrote:
I think I've got it. Darned if I don't think so. The serial, I mean -- the one I've been looking for. ["Beyond This Horizon"].

Like this -- for some time I've been wandering around in a blue fog, trying to get a theme, a major conflict suitable for a novel-length S-F story. I wanted it to be fully mature, adult, dramatic in its possibilities -- and not used before. Naturally the last requirement was the sticker. Perhaps the possibilities in S-F have not been exhausted, but they have certainly been well picked over; for me, at least, it is hard to find a really fresh theme. But I started searching by elimination. First, I elim-[20]inated space travel. Old hat, and it tends to steal the scene from anything else. Then I assumed that the basic problems of economics and politics had been solved. Thus, in one sweep, I got rid of almost every type of story I have done up to this time.

Okay -- in a world that is all peace-and-prosperity what will men and women have left to struggle for? Problems of sex and marriage obviously, but I am not writing for the Ladies Home Journal. The basic problem of esthetics? Wide open for S-F treatment, and new, but the issues are subtle and it would be difficult to convince the readers that the problems of esthetics are susceptible to scientific analysis and manipulation. Same for metaphysical problems.

I seemed to be up against a dead end, when a possibility occurred to me which, while not new, has been futzed with rather than dealt with -- the possibilities of genetics, and in particular, What Are We Going To Make of the Human Race? Mr. Tooker discussed it ably in the March '39 book, Stapledon has dealt with it on the grand scale in "Last and First Men", Taine-Bell suggested some possibilities in "The Time Stream", numerous superman stories have been written, and lots of stories of the mad-scientist-in-the-laboratory-creates-new-species type have been done. Huxley did a beautiful satire in "Brave New World", and even Heinlein has brushed the edges of the subject in "Methuselah's Children". But it seems to me that there remains a different and in some ways better story yet to be written.]


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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