Motivation: Eastern and Western Concepts

  • N. K. Singh
Part of the Management for Professionals book series (MANAGPROF)


In ancient Western philosophy, a significant contribution was made by Aristotle (384–332 bc) who can be considered as father of behavioural sciences. He considered man as a political animal being gregarious in nature. Aristotle studied theory of motivation by his factual examination of data and postulated different systems of running state machinery based on rationalism. Aristotle himself considered trading to be of lower order and the making of money was considered an evil. Surprisingly this corresponds to what is also mentioned in Panchatantra—uttam kheti madhyam vyapar (agriculture is superior and trade is lower). In spite of this, trade and business thrived in Athens. The contribution of Aristotle was more in methodology based on analysis of experience and syllogism rather than speculative thought, characteristic of Plato. German philosopher Immanuel Kant considered duty to be of the highest value, whereas Nietzsche considered power to be of the highest value. The theory of motivation grew rapidly during the course of late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Karl Marx (1818–1883) emphasized the economic aspect of motivation with his theory of economic dialectic materialism. Darwin noted survival as an important aspect of motivation. Max Weber (1804–1920) related Protestant ethics to industry. The most significant contribution to understanding of human behaviour was, however, made by Dr. Sigmund Freud (1856–1937). Freud contributed the concept of pleasure as principle and unconscious motivation. In his view, all behaviour was caused. The emphasis of Freud on urge of sex as the spring of motivation was countered by his own followers. Alfred Adler (1927) thought that striving for power was the main spring of motivation. In 1954, Abraham Maslow brought out the theory of hierarchy of needs and the concept of self-actualization. This was followed by McGregor in 1960 by developing useful typology of Theory ‘X’ and Theory ‘Y’. He considered participative approach as the important ingredient of motivation. McClelland (1961) thought achievement orientation was the source of motivation, whereas Herzberg (1966) considered man’s behaviour based on his own two basic impulses of avoiding pain and striving for achievement. In his view, the former behaviour constitutes hygienic factor, whereas the motivational factor consisted of the need for orientation or the need for achievement. It would be seen from this brief survey of basic concepts of motivation that power, sex and achievement have emerged as three major cornerstones of motivational theory. The concepts which have been highlighted above have a strong influence on the value system and needs of any human being.


Indian Philosophy German Philosopher Achievement Orientation Speculative Thought Main Spring 
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© Springer India Pvt. Ltd. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • N. K. Singh
    • 1
  1. 1.Rajarshi School of Management and TechnologyVaranasiIndia

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