Vocabulary of Motives
Is a theory that looks at why people verbalize or use certain motives over others, the basic assumption being that there is a reason behind choosing a certain motive over another depending on the context (Mills, 1940, p. 904). C. Wright Mills the author of the theory outlined a three step analytical model that can be used to explain motive selection (Mills, 1940, p. 904). At the heart of the theory is the study of how language can elicit “diverse actions” (Mills, 1940, p. 904).
The first step calls for a determination of the context and conditions in which a motive is selected and affirmed (Mills, 1940, pp. 904-906). This step is important because the context in which the motive is being chosen will alter what motive is chosen. For example in the context of a gated community I may have a different motive for purchasing the house when speaking with my realtor, my family and my co-workers. My motive can and will change depending on what I believe is the acceptable response given the context
The second step seeks to determine why a certain motive was expressed while others were not (Mills, 1940, p. 905). When making a decision on which motive to vocalize we look through “named consequences” that we know of and try and determine what motive will best satisfy those who are questioning our behaviour (Mills, 1940, p. 907). This step is essentially an explanation of behaviour.
The third step is to highlight links between a person’s vocabulary of motives and their behaviour (Mills, 1940, p. 905). This step may seem similar to the previous however it is not. The difference is that it attempts to highlight a persons’ justification for their action by providing reasons for the behaviour. This step is can often be were an individual’s vocabulary of motives fails as they provide rationalizations for their behaviour rather than the necessary reasoning for their behaviour (Mills, 1940, p. 910).
What were are left with “ is an analysis of the integrating, controlling, and specifying function a certain type of speech fulfills in socially situated actions” (Mills, 1940, p. 905). A less complex way at looking at it is that by the end of the analysis we are left with an explanation for the selection of a certain motive in a specific situation and an understanding of the actions that the selection of a motive creates.
Now let us look at vocabulary of motives as it relates to individuals buying homes in gated communities. The first thing we need to do is take in mind that our analysis will take place in the context of late and liquid modernity, which means individuals have unstable identities and they are seeking to buy into a new identity if it is perceived as a better one (Ferrell, Hayward, & Young, 2008, p. 57-58; Atkinson, 2008, p. 6). Consumerism is the vehicle in which we obtain our new identity. The second step would be to determine what explanations people have for buying into a gated community. The standard response explanation for purchasing a home in a gated community is for the added security (Lynch, 2001-2002, p. 100). This ignores the fact that those who are able to afford entry into gated communities are generally affluent and would most likely live in a relatively safe place. Not to mention as we’ve seen in recent news stories , including the Reeva Steenkamp murder case and Trayvon Martin murder case, these facilities are not immune to crime. Security is in fact used as a rationalization for purchasing the home and that without it we would be vulnerable to crime. The true reason for purchasing it is that it highlights and exemplifies a persons wealth and prestige. If someone was simply to state that, many would see it as being snobby but by stating that security was the priority in the purchase, the individual remains humble and still gains the benefits. This is where we see the third step in Mills’ theory since we are making a connection between buying the home, the behaviour, and our identity. In the case the vocabulary of motives was used to rationalize behavior in order to avoid looking patronizing and therefore successful implementation of their new identity.
The following video demonstrates that gated communities are not immune to crime and for that reason there must be other reasons for living in one