System relevance is a current euphemism that is used by all possible parts of society to underline the importance of something. This label evolved into a verbal showstopper that nips any contradiction in the bud. However, we can also transfer the term to the reality of most people’s lives. A system separates itself from its environment by defining certain elements and relationships as a belonging and mutual interaction. Example: The ball sport of football consists of a marked field, two goals, teams with eleven plus active field players, several referees, competitive events in different leagues, sometimes worldwide, spectators, television rights, etc. Relevance stands for the meaning in a certain context. Example: The football game satisfies social needs and is therefore systemic relevant. In contrast, the business is oriented towards the satisfaction of individual business strategies. These different perspectives result in the business arguing with social needs in order to secure its business. The pyramid of needs must serve as a verbal showstopper.
With the Maslow pyramid of needs we can try to assign system relevance. Here we have to find a border that contains the really important aspects and differentiates the things that go beyond. Where the limit is, and which industries are concerned lies in the eye of the beholder.
- Physiological needs
These basic needs are essential for survival – clean air, clean water, food, a healthy environment, etc. The sectors concerned are water supply, agriculture and fishing, energy supply and environmental protection. The higher levels build on the fulfillment of this lowest level.
- Security needs
On the next level we safeguard our existence – physical and mental health, economic livelihood, a roof over our heads, employment. Manufacturing, construction, transport and warehousing, administrative and support services, education, health, and social work operate in this area. With this level we are able to survive.
- Social needs
Once the existential things are in place, we desire social relationships – friendship, affection and love, family, community, personal exchange, mobility and understanding. Here are active the art, entertainment and recreation, accommodation and food services, information and communication, public administration, social security. Deficiencies at this level lead to an unhealthy self-image, a tendency to inappropriate generalizations, biased perceptions, and anti-social behavior.
- Individual needs
Belonging to one or more communities is the starting point to compare oneself with other people – success, self-affirmation, trust, ratings and, with the satisfied social need for belonging, the urge to freedom and independence. All possible private services work here. With this level one leaves the systemic relevant areas. It is now a matter of satisfying individual desires and longings that go beyond the essential foundations of life.
When all needs and desires are satisfied, completely new personal desires arise – to have the freedom to be creative, to unfold potentials and talents and to give a special meaning to one’s own life. This is the domain of industries that deal with luxury products and services as well as financial and insurance activities. On this level, a strong personal pressure arises to those, who have mastered the other levels.
Bottom line: The system relevance of sectors is determined by the direct satisfaction of the needs of individual citizens. The importance is decreasing noticeably on the levels of basic, security, social and individual needs as well as the ultimate desire for self-fulfillment. Therefore, any indirect explanations claiming to satisfy the needs should always be viewed with skepticism. Examples: To call banks systemic relevant, even though they do not provide any service to the people but generate especially for the savers in Germany losses of over 650 billion Euros through low interest rates. Or ball sports, such as FIFA football, which today is primarily a revenue machine of over four billion US dollars, at the expense of the general public. The Corona crisis has brought people down to the level of security needs. And as soon as survival is assured, the need for social contact are immediately claimed. How long it will take, before we again reach the level of individual needs for success is not foreseeable. In the meantime, system relevance becomes a verbal showstopper that nips any contradiction in the bud and demand for one bailout after another.