My experience and reading indicates to me that humanity finds its greatest motivation to work and be productive from several main directions:
People trying to survive, relying on subsistence agriculture or even urban thievery work extremely hard in order to provide basic food and shelter for themselves and their dependents. The lot of these people is often great misery and suffering.
People in a position to receive personal profit and comfort from their work tend to expend a great effort to continue and increase those profits. It is one of the greatest motivating forces.
3. A person who is driven by self pride and self worth accomplishes the world because he is the one who will not stop when the profits run out and continue even when all are full. Those are the thoughts of a friend.......
The first two cases should be considered as "end-member" cases and much of the productive motivation for the worlds population exists somewhere in-between. It should nonetheless be clear that for much of the "developing" world the situation is closer to the first case and that for much of the "developed" world it is the latter. I find it curious therefor that much of the social policy in this century appears to be directed increasingly away from both end- members, that is, away from the most basic motivating human factors. We are guaranteeing survival at the same time as we increasingly shut the door to middle-class existence for most of our population. Where is the motivation when a person is given a wage for doing nothing while at the same time he/she has no access or requirement of even a minimum education that would make productive employment a possibility?
Working out of self pride and worth already presumes that certain minimum subsistence levels have been attained. At that point, which is where most of the western world lies at this time, self worth looms large as the dominant motivation.
Karl Marx outlined a great experiment which was carried out for a period over 70 years in Soviet Russia. I feel that the eventual failure of the system was its specific and conscious elimination of both end-member motivating forces.
See Maslow, A., 1970, Motivation and Personality. 2nd ed. New York, Harper and Row.
Maslow's scale of human needs:
survival, security, affection, self-esteem, self- actualization.
I can easily see survival and security as being important motivators to hard work, affection probably not, self-esteem and self-actualization (whatever that means) could easily be motivators to hard work if they are bound up with profits/wealth and material possessions, (which I think they usually are).
20 August, 1993
With special thanks to Diane for her contribution, 24 January, 2000