Economic Needs

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Needs, Economic


in society, needs that cannot be satisfied without social reproduction. Property relations and the entire socioeconomic system have a decisive influence on the social forms in which economic needs are manifested and satisfied (see). Production shapes the general objective conditions in which economic needs emerge and develop. Needs influence economic reproduction at the levels of society as a whole, social groups, and individuals.

Changes in economic needs are determined primarily by the state of reproduction. All changes in economic needs and in their characteristics depend on society’s achievements in subduing nature and on man’s position in relation to the environment—that is, on the economic resources of society and on its productive forces. The objective possibilities and the need for improving man’s condition by actively transforming the environment are engendered and reproduced on the basis of these achievements in mastering nature, which also determine the direction of the further development of economic needs. The general directions in which economic needs develop (for example, the need for protection against unfavorable weather or climatic conditions, the need to establish communication routes, and the need to organize joint actions) become specific in more definite goals that reflect the features of a particular stage of societal development, as well as local characteristics. The development of economic needs always entails the emergence of a new, objective goal (or at least, a modification of a former goal), even before the appearance of new goods or of new characteristics of goods corresponding to the new goal. In this sense, economic needs always outstrip production, acting as an impetus that helps to shape the directions and parameters of its continued development.

When production, in response to a particular economic need generated by it, creates consumer goods to satisfy that need, the latter acquires concrete historical existence as a need for particular goods. Having taken shape as demands for goods, economic needs continue to develop in the form of ever-increasing requirements for these goods.

Economic needs are subdivided in relation to the scale and structure of production. Absolute needs are an expression of the consumer power of society (the maximum volume of goods in production that can be consumed by society, if manufactured). Real needs are those that can and objectively should be satisfied under optimal reproduction. Needs subject to satisfaction can be satisfied by the actual state of reproduction, taking into account deviations from the optimum. Actually satisfiable needs constitute another subdivision of economic needs. In a market economy, needs subject to satisfaction operate in the form of effective demand. Actually satisfiable needs take the form of satisfied demand. Based on the socioeconomic structure of society, the needs of society as a whole are distinguished from the needs of classes, strata, social groups, and individuals. Depending on the role played by their satisfaction in the reproduction of human capabilities, economic needs are classified as physical, intellectual, or social.

The law of increasing requirements applies to the development of economic needs as socioeconomic progress continues. The comprehensive study of economic needs is an important prerequisite for working out substantiated forecasts of socioeconomic and scientific and technological development and for improving planning at all levels.


Marx, K. “Vvedenie (Iz ekonomicheskikh rukopisei 1857–1858 gg).” In K. Marx and F. Engels, Sobr. soch., vol. 12.
Marx, K. Kapital, vol. 1, chs. 1, 5. Ibid., vol. 23.
Lenin, V. I. “Po povodu tak nazyvaemogo voprosa o rynkakh.” Poln. sobr. soch, 5th ed., vol. 1, pp. 101–02.
Radaev, V. V. Potrebnosti kak ekonomicheskaia kategoriia sotsializma. Moscow, 1970.
Mizhenskaia, E. F. Lichnye potrebnosti pri sotsializme. Moscow, 1973.
Levin, B. M. Sotsial’no-ekonomicheskie potrebnosti: zakonomernosti formirovaniia i razvitiia. Moscow, 1974.
Revaikin, A. S. Neobkhodimyi produkt, ego velichina i struktura pri sotsializme. Petrozavodsk, 1974.
Rutgaizer, V. M. Potrebnosti v uslugakh. Moscow, 1974.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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