The Achieving Society

Posted: 4 Nov 2009

Date Written: 1961


Examines the motivation for achievement as a psychological factor that shapes economic development. Refuting arguments based on race, climate, or population growth, the book instead argues for cultural customs and motivations - especially the motivation for achievement - as the major catalysts of economic growth. Considering the Protestant Reformation, the rise of capitalism, parents' influences on sons, and folklore and children's stories as shaping cultural motivations for achievement, the book hypothesizes that a high level of achievement motivation precedes economic growth. This is supported through qualitative analysis of the achievement motive, as well as of other psychological factors - including entrepreneurial behavior and characteristics, and available sources of achievement in past and present highly achieving societies. It is the achievement motive - and not merely the profit motive or the desire for material gain - that has advanced societies economically. Consequently, individuals are not merely products of their environment, as many social scientists have asserted, but also creators of the environment, as they manipulate it in various ways in the search for achievement. Finally, a plan is hypothesized to accelerate economic growth in developing countries, by encouraging and supplementing their achievement motives through mobilizing the greater achievement resources of developed countries. The conclusion is not just that motivations shape economic progress, but that current influences on future people's motivations and values will determine economic growth in the long run. Thus, it is most beneficial for a society to concentrate its resources on creating an environment conducive to entrepreneurship and a strong ideological base for achievement. (CJC)

Keywords: Need for achievement, Psychological traits, Economic development, Cultural values, Motivation, Achievement measures, Environment

Suggested Citation

McClelland, David C., The Achieving Society (1961). University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign's Academy for Entrepreneurial Leadership Historical Research Reference in Entrepreneurship, Available at SSRN:

David C. McClelland (Contact Author)

affiliation not provided to SSRN

No Address Available

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