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Needs and interests

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-S040-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved June 23, 2024, from

Article Summary

To have an interest in something is to have a stake in how that thing goes. Needs can be thought of as interests instrumental to a specified purpose, as an artist will need paint, or as general essential interests, like the needs associated with physical survival. Both needs and interests can be contrasted with wants, in being more objectively assessable. A concrete specification of needs and interests is better done by means of a list than by a criterion stipulated in terms of goods that would be chosen in a hypothetical situation. The concept of need can be used to justify a claim to economic resources, even though it only states a minimal demand. However, when total resources will not meet all needs, it is necessary to work with the principle of the equal consideration of interests rather than that of needs, as in the case where health care needs may outstrip available resources. The concept of interests can be misused in defence of authoritarian political systems, but does not have to be used in this way. Although citizens may have an interest in performing their duty, it is likely that there will always be a continuing conflict between duty and interests in politics.

Citing this article:
Weale, Albert. Needs and interests, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-S040-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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