Maslow's Theory of Human Motivation and its Deep Roots in Individualism: Interrogating Maslow's Applicability in Africa

Munyaradzi Mawere, Raymond Mubaya, Mirjam van Reisen, Gertjan Stam, van

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterScientificpeer-review


Since the postulation of Abraham Maslow's theory of human motivation, the theory has been celebrated as the determining factor to account for and explain human wants and needs. While the theory has its genealogy from an individualistic society, the United States of America, where it was crafted and propelled to take a stand as a universal theory determining human wants and needs across the world, little has been done to critically examine its seemingly perceived universality and applicability in societies such as those of Africa, where collectivism and conviviality bear centrality. The theory has enjoyed more acclamations than critical appraisals. This paper is a critical appraisal of Maslow's theory of human motivation. It examines the applicability and universality of the theory outside the context in which it was created, tested, and applied, such as Africa, before it received what seems to be a worldwide endorsement. Author's observations in Southern Africa recognised behaviour motivated by pursuit of relationships, strengthening of community, acknowledgement of authority, sharing, and avoidance of shame. The paper concludes that the theory of Maslow is not applicable to many settings in Africa, in the past or even today. The claim for universality of the model proposed by Maslow is therefore questioned and its universal application is discredited. This conclusion calls for further interaction with the subject of human motivation outside of Maslow's framing, by contextualising such theory(ies) in space and time.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationTheory, Knowledge, Development and Politics
Subtitle of host publicationWhat Role for the Academy in the Sustainability of Africa?
EditorsMunyaradzi Mawere, Artwell Nhemachena
Place of PublicationBamenda
PublisherLangaa RPCIG
ISBN (Print)9789956763641
Publication statusPublished - May 2016


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