Motivation and the gift relationship

  • Norman V. Jackson

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This thesis proposes a theory of Motivation to Work, as a particular condition of general motivation, using the Maussian concept of the Gift to explain the operation of Lacanian Desire. Specifically, it argues that de-motivation stems from Gift rejection. However, as the arguments are not paradigmatically commensurable with managerialist theories, it has been necessary to establish the epistemological tradition of which this work is representative, namely, Critical Theory and Post-Structuralism/Post- Modernism. In distinction to the managerialist explanations of motivation, management and work, behaviourist theories of motivation are characterised as more properly a concern with psychological incentives, management in its current socio-historic institutionalised form as a process of social domination and work as a social experience of domination, but also as a forum for social life generally. However, as such a view receives little theoretical or empirical confirmation from managerialist literature, it is argued that it is necessary to broaden the catchment area of relevant writing, and that the literary arts have more insight than orthodox science. This is supported by reference to modern literary theory in terms of the Form/Content distinction. Central to this argument is the ontological concept of Difference and its `political' use in maintaining social domination by privileging certain forms over others. Having established the basis on which to articulate this theory of motivation, the Lacanian concept of Desire is explored, together with its relevance to motivation and management/organisation theory. The theory of the Gift Relationship is then explicated and developed, together with some of its popular sociological conceptualisations, and an argument made for an understanding in terms of its psychological signficance in explaining the operationalisation of Lacanian Desire. This is related to the work situation and to its relevance for organisational management. In conclusion, its utility is considered, as are some potential criticisms of the arguments put forward.
Date of Award1986
Original languageEnglish


  • Motivation
  • gift relationship

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