What Is a Destructive, Deforming Institution?

  • Michelle MaieseEmail author
  • Robert Hanna


Destructive, deforming social institutions are those that make it difficult or impossible for the people who belong to them to satisfy their true human needs. Drawing on Marcuse’s distinction between true human needs and false human needs, we argue that true human needs are universal across humanity and essentially bound up with human dignity in a Kantian sense. False human needs, in contrast, encompass anything that people desire, no matter how intensely or repeatedly, whose satisfaction represses, impedes, or outright destroys the satisfaction of true human needs. In contemporary neoliberal societies like the USA, people’s true human needs, both as individual and social beings, are systematically replaced by false human needs for money, property, and social status. Such collective sociopathy, we argue, can be understood as resulting from the systematic interplay of three factors: neoliberal ideology, a scientistic worldview, and coercive authoritarianism. What makes the social institutions within such societies destructive and deforming is that they centrally involve commodification, mechanization, coercion, the incentivization of desire, and false consciousness.


Needs Dignity Collective sociopathy Neoliberal ideology Scientistic Authoritarianism 


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Emmanuel CollegeBostonUSA
  2. 2.Independent PhilosopherBoulderUSA

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