Penn State

Jeffrey Catchmark - Professor of Agricultural and Biological Engineering, Penn State University Park

Book Title: The Right To Be Human

Author: Edward Hoffman, Ph.D

Book Description:

Humanity is no stranger to virtue, but remains unable to address its shortcomings as manifested by the prevalence of pollution, poverty, inequity, prejudice, slavery, violence, and war. After millennia of reflection and scholarship by many on the nature of humanity, one is left to conclude that the problem rests not in our lack of understanding of human nature, or our inability to change it, but rather our inability to manage it.


Over the past several years I have devoted significant time toward understanding psychology, philosophy, and ethics with the goal of developing practical changes in how we manage the expression of our humanity, especially as it pertains to ethical leadership and decision-making. A key first step is to understand what human beings need and what motivates behavior. No one may have contributed more to this area than Abraham Maslow (1908-1970). Maslow is known for his work on developing key concepts such as the hierarchy of human needs and a person’s need for self-actualization. He established the field of humanistic psychology and translated his research into daily management practices through an approach he called "enlightened management" that is used by countless organizations.


I selected this book, The Right To Be Human by Dr. Edward Hoffman, a biography of Maslow, since it details more than Maslow’s insights and how they influenced the fields of psychology and management. It describes a young Maslow as, at best, an ordinary man, influenced significantly by his difficult personal life, who discovers his drive for scholarship by the value of his work to both humanity and himself. One of the things I admire about Maslow is that he loved translating fundamental research into practice for the betterment of humanity. This is the essence of engineering and perhaps engineering is also needed to develop new approaches for managing our human nature and to create a sustainable world where everyone can, as Maslow put it, self-actualize.

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