A Hierarchy of Need & Wealth in the Bad & Bourgeoisie of the French Revolution

In the late 1700’s, King Louis XVI sought to promote the welfare of the French people and create real, lasting change that benefited all under his rule, without a clear picture of what this would entail (Burns, 2003, p. 100). However, the French monarchy and government had long been entwined with corruption through money, power, and prestige, creating a cycle and a system that served the wealthy and further marginalized the poor in society (Burns, 2003, p. 100). The people of France starved suffering increases in the cost of food, as well as a shortage of it overall (Burns, 2003, p. 100-101). While Versailles feasted sumptuously, the so-called common folk began to look upon their government with contempt (Burns, 2003, p. 101). The Assembly of Notables met, with a double representation of the Third Estate – a perceived victory and acknowledgment for the common folk (Burns, 2003, p. 101). With a rocky start, they formally proposed the dismantling of feudalism, for man’s unalienable rights to liberty, equality, and fraternity; sovereignty was found in the people, not their ruler (Burns, 2003, p. 102). The call for equality came to a head with the storming of the Bastille prison and was, in some ways, achieved (Burns, 2003, p. 102-103). There was still much more change that needed to be enacted for the French, and the amidst the celebration for their rights, others feared and mistrusted the decision-making capability of the poor (Burns, 2003, p. 103).

Relating to Psychology, what was most notable in the French Revolution was the way in which the people satisfied their basic human needs. According to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, there are five needs all humans strive for in order to become self-actualized: physiological, safety, love and belongingness, esteem, and self-actualization (Winston, 2016). Before one can move onto the next level of the hierarchy, they must master or achieve the previous need (Winston, 2016). However, in their search for attaining food and sustenance for their family, the French people united with a common purpose through the Third Estate, working to create change and transformation that allowed their rights, needs, and demands to be acknowledged (Burns, 2003, p. 101-102). In doing so, one might say they became self-actualized, in the reverse order of Maslow’s hierarchy. One’s deficiency in an area becomes their motivation to strive and move forward in the hierarchy and what they pursuit (Winston, 2016). In addition, working towards autonomy and volition through satisfying needs allows for enhanced self-knowledge, empathy, gratitude, and interpersonal relationships (Ryan & Vansteenkiste, 2013). Thus, seeking to satisfy our own needs, while recognizing the needs of those around us and uniting through this, gives us a common purpose and common ground of working together. We begin to understand ourselves better, develop more empathic and grateful mindsets, and create transformation and change that benefits current and forthcoming generations, opening the door to meaningful and necessary conversation (Winston, 2016; Ryan & Vansteenkiste, 2013).

Moreover, one part of Leadership that frequently goes unnoticed is the satisfaction of needs of employees, coworkers, and colleagues. We may often see the good work and effort put into a project by someone but never consider the lengths they go to in order to produce these results. Working early in the morning until late at night, we assume they are naturally hard-working, driven or passionate but never consider what the actual motivation or cost is. When they begin to slip from the top spot or their work starts to suffer in some way, we do not consider the reason for this either; we simply put greater strictures and pressure on them to work harder, longer, faster, and more diligently because we expect nothing but the best. When our basic needs of food and safety are satisfied, we search for love and belongingness before esteem and respect. And when we have this esteem, our needs become relational again as we seek to do what is beneficial for all, in developing understanding, talents, and innate potentials, becoming self-actualized. All of humanity desires to know and be known, and I believe that Leadership and collaboration are no exceptions to this desire. In all things, while I want to be known and understood for who I am at my core, I desire just as highly to know those around me on a deeper and more relational level. When we can gain input from others in how we can best serve and help them, our collective work flourishes into something more promising and beneficial than what we sought to accomplish on our own or without considering those around us first.

From all this, humanity must be concerned with the functioning, well-being, and thriving of each person (Labberton, 2010, p. 65). Too often, we dehumanize others and claim that some area of suffering is not our problem; we are not direct perpetrators, nor are we directly affected (Labberton, 2010, p. 65). But is is our problem. We are called to be concerned with all that happens in the world in which we live (Labberton, 2010, p. 66). We can blame, rationalize, dehumanize, and forget what happens around us, but if we claim to love, serve, and follow God, we cannot do so with a clear conscience (Labberton, 2010, p. 66). Everyone’s needs for food, safety, and genuine love and belongingness are part of our call to serve the Lord and must be done through taking responsibility, working together, and caring for those around us, rather than simply looking out for ourselves.

“…Injustice is what shows up when love is absent from the heart (Labberton, 2010, p. 66)”.


Burns, J. M. (2003). Transforming leadership: A new pursuit of happiness (Vol. 213). Grove Press.

Labberton, M. (2010). The dangerous act of loving your neighbor: Seeing others through the eyes of Jesus. InterVarsity Press.

Vansteenkiste, M., & Ryan, R. M. (2013). On psychological growth and vulnerability: Basic psychological need satisfaction and need frustration as a unifying principle. Journal of Psychotherapy Integration, 23(3), 263.

Winston, C. N. (2016). An existential-humanistic-positive theory of human motivation. The Humanistic Psychologist, 44(2), 142.

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