He started his career as a professor of economics at the University of California, Berkeley in the early 1960s. He is known for his taxonomy of fundamental human needs and human scale development. Max Neef traveled through Latin America and the United States, as a visiting professor in various universities, as well as living with and researching the poor.
He worked with the problem of development in the Third World, describing the inappropriateness of conventional models of development that have contributed to poverty, debt and ecological disasters for Third World communities.
In 1981, Max Neef wrote From the Outside Looking In: Experiences in Barefoot Economics, a narrative of his travels among the poor in South America. In the same year, he founded the Centre for Development Alternatives (CEPAUR).
Max Neef ran for President of Chile as an independent in the 1993 election. In 1993, Max Neef was appointed rector of the Universidad Austral de Chile in Valdivia.
He served in that position for eight years.
He is also affiliated with the European Academy of Sciences and Arts, the Club of Rome, the New York Academy of Sciences, and the Leopold Kohr Academy of Salzburg (an institution founded by Leopold Kohr). Among his honoraria are the University Award of Highest Honour (Soka University). Doctor Honoris Causa (University of Jordan).
Chile"s National Prize for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights.
And the Kenneth Boulding Award, the highest honour bestowed by the International Society for Ecological Economics (August 2008). On 10 May 2009, he received an Honorary Doctorate in Humane Letters and was Commencement Speaker to the 158th Graduating Class of Saint Francis University.
European Academy of Sciences and Arts]
Max Neef is a council member of the World Future Council.