Term of Art: Achievement Motivation

achievement motivation: Defined as the need to perform well or the striving for success, and evidenced by persistence and effort in the face of difficulties, achievement motivation is regarded as a central human motivation. Psychologist David McClelland (The Achieving Society, 1961) measured it by analyzing respondent’s narratives; rather more controversially he hypothesized that was related to economic growth. Lack of achievement motivation was, for a period during the 1950s and 1960s, a fashionable explanation for lack of economic development in the Third World–notably among certain American modernization theorists. This thesis was much criticized by dependency theorists such as Andre Gunder Frank (Latin America: Underdevelopment or Revolution, 1969).”

Excerpted from: Matthews, Gordon, ed. Oxford Dictionary of Sociology. New York: Oxford University Press, 1994.

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