Peter Ferdinand Drucker
Drucker, Peter Ferdinand
Drucker, Peter Ferdinand
(b. 19 November 1909 in Vienna, Austria; d. 11 November 2005 in Claremont, California), professor, author, and management consultant who was a pioneer of management theory and a 2002 recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Drucker was born one of two sons in Vienna in 1909, when the Hapsburg monarchy still ruled the Austro-Hungarian Empire. His father, Adolph Bertram Drucker, was the senior civil servant in the governmental Ministry of Economics, while his mother, Caroline (Bondi) Drucker, had studied medicine, which was highly unusual for a woman at that time. He attended Doblinger Gymnasium in Vienna from 1919 to 1927. Raised in an intellectual environment, Drucker was privy to wide-ranging discussions regarding literature, philosophy, and science and was sheltered from Austria’s wartime turmoil. Once a shining cultural center, Vienna saw conditions deteriorate dramatically after World War I. During the 1920s, Austrian politics were characterized by sharp conflicts between socialist “Red” Vienna and the “Black” conservatives of the national government. Anxious to leave behind what he saw as pervasive nostalgia for prewar times, Drucker left Austria for Germany in 1927, after he graduated from high school.
In Germany, Drucker landed a position as an apprentice at a Hamburg export firm, a job that was so undemanding that he was easily able to focus on studies, as he was meanwhile enrolled at the University of Hamburg. He spent much time reading history, novels, and writings by the Dane Søren Kierkegaard, the philosopher whom Drucker would later claim was the most important intellectual influence on his ideas. While he was in Vienna for Christmas vacation, he met the Hungarian economic historian Karl Polanyi at an editorial conference for the Austrian Economist, beginning an important friendship. Sixteen months later, in 1929, Drucker enrolled as a student of international law at Frankfurt University. While there, he attended a course in admiralty law, which he described as “the most general education I ever had.” He later used this course as a model for his own courses in management. The same year, Drucker gained employment as a financial writer for Frankfurt’s largest daily newspaper, the Frankfurter General-Anzeiger. Two years later, the paper promoted him to one of its top editors; in this post he covered politics, foreign affairs, and economic news.
After graduating with a doctorate in international public law, Drucker produced two minor works, the second of which attracted attention in Nazi Germany. J. C. B. Mohr, one of Germany’s most prominent publishers, distributed Drucker’s brief work on Friedrich Julius Stahl, a nineteenth-century Prussian legal theorist, in 1933. Stahl was a Jew, so the Nazis were not at all pleased that such a book was made available, and the government banned the work several weeks after its March publication. Drucker left Germany later that year, immigrating to London. There, he became reacquainted with Doris Schmitz, with whom he had attended a number of law classes in Germany. In England, the two began developing a more serious relationship. Employment was scarce in depression-era London, but Drucker found work first in insurance and then as a securities analyst with a London bank. In 1937 he was offered a position as an American feature writer for several British and European newspapers, and he and Doris then married, on 15 January 1937, and left for the United States; the two would eventually have four children.
At this time Drucker developed connections with American publications, selling articles to Harper’s Magazine and also writing for the Washington Post. With his reputation reasonably well established through his publication of numerous articles, as well as of his first major book, The End of Economic Man: A Study of the New Totalitarianism (1939), Drucker actively sought a full-time academic position. In 1939 he landed a post at Sarah Lawrence College, in New York, teaching economics and statistics. In 1942 he became a full-time member of the faculty of Bennington College, in Vermont. Bennington was developing an innovative curriculum, and Drucker was in part hired to synthesize and integrate the social sciences and humanities into courses that transcended traditional disciplinary boundaries. That same year he published his second book, The Future of Industrial Man. While at Bennington during World War II, he also worked as a consultant for the federal secretary of war, advising the Board of Economic Warfare on matters related to production and management-labor relations.
In 1943 Drucker became a naturalized citizen of the United States. Also that year he obtained his first major private consulting assignment, with General Motors (GM). In The Future of Industrial Man, he had concluded that the modern corporation was the most important source of community and self-worth for individuals in industrial society and as such was worthy of further study. Donaldson Brown, then the vice president of finance at GM, had read Drucker’s two English-language books and contacted him to see if he would study the company. The result of Drucker’s inside view of GM was the 1946 work Concept of the Corporation, which presented a not entirely flattering view of GM as the archetypal American corporation. Through this work, Drucker moved from the theoretical model established in The Future of Industrial Man to a more specific case study. Although the book describes the inner workings of one specific company, the title is true to the content, as the book offers an explicit conceptual discussion of how the modern corporation should function in American society, as contrasted with how GM actually functioned during the early 1940s.
Concept of the Corporation not only secured the industrial organization as a topic of academic study but also established Drucker as the expert on the subject. In 1949 he was asked to join the faculty of New York University’s graduate management school. Over the following two decades Drucker produced an enormous body of written work, including The Practice of Management (1954), heralded as the most thorough analysis of the subject. In the August 1955 issue of the Manager, Thornton Hawkins described that text as “one of the most outstanding contributions to management theory and practice that has been published in the English language.” By 1962, The Practice of Management was required reading at Harvard Business School.
During the 1950s and 1960s Drucker published nine books and nearly fifty articles, establishing him as the founding father of American management theory. He wrote for both popular and business magazines, contributing to Harper’s, the Harvard Business Review, Fortune, and the Saturday Evening Post. Much of his writing reflected his belief that the corporation was the most important organization in modern industrial society and as such needed to function as effectively as possible. In The New Society: The Anatomy of the Industrial Order (1950), Drucker analyzed the mass-production industrialism of postwar America and warned that corporations needed to find ways for workers to derive meaning and satisfaction from their jobs other than through their paychecks. This emphasis on the social function of the business organization was revolutionary. Drucker’s notion that the “self-governing plant community” would allow workers to participate in corporate decision making as well as to feel a sense of belonging to the corporation was also novel, although it was embraced more by the Japanese than by Americans. “Management by objectives,” the practice of employees’ setting their own goals rather than having them dictated by their superiors, was another Drucker creation of the 1950s.
Drucker also served as a voice for the conservative counterpoint to the liberal trend of Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society and the expansion of social welfare programs. As a sharp critic of large government, Drucker was a forerunning advocate for privatization and the curtailment of government power during the 1960s and 1970s. The neoconservative editor and author Irving Kristol contrasted Drucker’s Age of Discontinuity: Guidelines to Our Changing Society (1969) with John Kenneth Galbraith’s Affluent Society (1958) and Michael Harrington’s The Other America: Poverty in the United States (1962), two important and widely read liberal critiques of American social policies.
Drucker’s work appealed not just to business executives but also to the general public. His thirty-nine books, translated into more than twenty-five different languages, ranged from practical advice for the “knowledge worker” (a term created by Drucker) to social commentary. His straightforward style attracted a diverse audience; the Intel cofounder Andrew Grove commented, “Unlike many philosophers, he spoke in plain language that resonated with ordinary managers.”
Drucker remained at New York University until 1971, when he had passed sixty years of age and the university would have required him to gain reappointment each year. The Druckers had visited Pomona, California, in the 1950s and had enjoyed it, such that when the president of the nearby Claremont Colleges offered Drucker a position at Claremont Graduate School (now Claremont Graduate University), he eagerly accepted. The family relocated to Claremont in 1971, and Drucker joined the faculty of the Graduate School of Management, where he was the Clarke Professor of Social Science and Management until 2003.
Works written by Drucker while at Claremont include Management: Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices (1973), a synthesis of much of his earlier management writings; The Unseen Revolution: How Pension Fund Socialism Came to America (1976), which illuminated the growing role of employee stock (and thus company) ownership in America; and his memoir, Adventures of a Bystander (1979). During the early 1980s he became increasingly critical of the turn corporate management had taken away from key values and results toward hype and accounting gamesmanship.
Soon disenchanted with the hostile takeovers, leveraged buyouts, and associated downsizing of corporate America, Drucker turned his attention to entrepreneurial ventures and the nonprofit organization, which he referred to as the social sector. In his books Innovation and Entrepreneurship: Practice and Principles (1985) and The Frontiers of Management: Where Tomorrow’s Decisions Are Being Shaped Today (1986), Drucker hailed “innovative management” and chastised managers for avoiding risk, a habit he argued was a recipe for disaster.
As Drucker reached his eighties, he cut back significantly on travel commitments, requiring most of his consulting clients to visit his home in Claremont. Nevertheless, he remained as productive as ever, if not more so, as he increasingly consulted with and wrote about institutions representing the social sector. In 1990 he published Managing the Non-Profit Organization: Practices and Principles, which essentially provided the social sector with its own Management: Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices, his earlier guide for private industry. During the last several years of his life, he helped large evangelical Protestant churches better reach their objectives. Other consulting clients included the Girl Scouts, the Red Cross, and the American Heart Association. Much of his work for nonprofit clients was pro bono.
Drucker remained active until his death, consulting, writing, and appearing at Claremont Graduate School, which was renamed the Peter F. Drucker and Masatoshi Ito Graduate School of Management in 2003. He received numerous honorary degrees over the course of his lifetime. In 2002 President George W. Bush awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his contributions as the “world’s foremost pioneer of management theory.” Drucker died of natural causes on 11 November 2005, at the age of ninety-five.
Drucker’s epigrammatic writing style often belies the nature of his theories; Drucker sayings, or “Druckerisms,” are perhaps better known than the ideas themselves. “Management must manage,” for example, summarizes Drucker’s concept that organizations and managers must exert only legitimate authority. His mandate that organizations ask “What is our business?” meant a complete restructuring of AT&T when managers recognized that they were not in the telephone business but the business of service. The term “knowledge worker” is shorthand for Drucker’s insistence that organizations recognize the importance of the people who work within them. At the core of Drucker’s ideas is the belief that the health of modern industrial society depends on functioning, effective institutions of every kind.
Drucker despised being referred to as a management “guru” and often expressed frustration over being known primarily for his work in the corporate sector. His contributions and areas of expertise were indeed vast. In his management courses, he would not infrequently invoke medieval history, zoology, and Sherlock Holmes—all in one lecture. He was an expert in Japanese art and taught a seminar on the subject at Pomona College for seven years. Drucker viewed management as a liberal art, one that required integrative thinking and that was applicable to any institution in society. Perhaps most important, Drucker cared not just about how organizations managed their resources but also about how they operated morally and ethically within society. Behind his extensive teaching, publishing, and consulting lay a philosophy of human responsibility. Drucker himself stated, “Management always lives, works, and practices in and for an institution, which is a human community held together by the bond that, next to the tie of family, is the most powerful human bond: the work bond.”
The Peter F. Drucker Archive in Claremont, California, is the repository for Drucker’s papers and publications, including manuscripts, correspondence, and published materials. Drucker’s memoir, Adventures of a Bystander (1979), provides a wealth of information about his early life and the various individuals who influenced him. Early assessments of Drucker and his work include Peter Drucker: Contributions to Business Enterprise (1970), a collection of essays edited by Tony H. Bonaparte and John E. Flaherty; and John J. Tar-rant, Drucker, the Man Who Invented the Corporate Society (1976). Two biographies of Drucker are Jack Beatty, The World According to Peter Drucker (1998); and John E. Flaherty, Peter Drucker: Shaping the Managerial Mind (1999). Ken Witty wrote and directed a documentary about Drucker, titled Peter F. Drucker: An Intellectual Journey (2003). Obituaries are in the Financial Times, Los Angeles Times, and Washington Post (all 12 Nov. 2005).
Karen E. Linkletter
Peter Drucker (born 1909) is known as the father of modern management. A prolific writer, business consultant and lecturer, he introduced many management concepts that have been embraced by corporations around the world.
It's been said that Peter Drucker invented the discipline of management. Before he wrote his first book on the topic, he knew of only two companies in the world with management development programs. Ten years after the book's publication, 3,000 companies were teaching the subject. His management concepts, which were new when presented in the 1940s and 1950s, endure into the 21st century.
Peter Ferdinand Drucker was born November 19, 1909 in Vienna, Austria. His parents, Adolph Bertram Drucker and Caroline Bond Drucker, were well educated. Adolph was an economist and lawyer. Caroline had studied medicine and briefly worked in the field. His parents raised Drucker in an intellectual environment. They regularly hosted dinners in which guests discussed economics, literature, music, mathematics and medicine. This instilled in the young boy a lifelong curiosity.
After secondary school, Drucker moved to Hamburg, Germany and worked as a clerk-trainee for an export firm while enrolled in Hamburg University Law School. The school did not offer night classes, so Drucker learned the topic by reading books in three languages in the evenings. He earned his law degree without ever attending a class.
Drucker then traveled to Frankfurt where he worked as a financial writer. In 1931, he earned his doctorate in public law and international relations from the University of Frankfurt. Drucker soon left Germany to escape the Nazis.
He moved to London where he worked as a securities analyst for an insurance company, then an economist for a small bank. Drucker's focus shifted from economics to people while he was in London. He was attending a seminar by economist John Maynard Keynes when he "suddenly realized that Keynes and all the brilliant economics students in the room were interested in the behavior of commodities while I was interested in the behavior of people," he explained.
Drucker married Doris Schmitz in 1937 and emigrated to the United States shortly thereafter. The couple had three daughters and a son. Drucker became a United States citizen in 1943. He was attracted to the United States because of its focus on the future. He told a writer for Forbes magazine that in Europe, "all they talked about was life before 1941. I was surrounded by extinct volcanoes."
Drucker worked as a correspondent for British financial publications before becoming an economics professor at Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, New York. Later, he taught at Bennington College, in Vermont. Drucker later said he "teaches to find out what he thinks."
Drucker has said that writing is the foundation of everything he does. In 1937, he published his first book, which he'd written in Europe. The End of Economic Man: A Study of the New Totalitarianism, examined the spiritual and social origins of fascism. In 1940, before the United States had entered World War II, he wrote The Future of Industrial Man, in which he presented his social vision for the postwar world.
Studied General Motors
In 1943, General Motors asked Drucker to study its management practices. His colleagues advised him not to accept the offer because studying corporate management would destroy his academic reputation. Drucker did accept and spent 18 months researching and writing the 1945 book, Concept of the Corporation.
Drucker interviewed executives and workers, visited plants, and attended board meetings. While the book focused on General Motors, Drucker went on to discuss the industrial corporation as a social institution and economic policy in the postwar era. He introduced previously unknown concepts such as cooperation between labor and management, decentralization of management, and viewing workers as resources rather than costs.
Drucker claimed that an industrial society allows people to achieve their dreams of personal achievement and equality of opportunity. He referred to decentralization as "a system of local self government," in which central management tells division managers what to do, but not how to do it. The young executives are given the freedom to made decisions—and mistakes—and learn from the experience.
Top leaders at General Motors disliked the book and discouraged their executives from reading it. Many other American executives criticized Concept as a challenge to management authority. One exception was Henry Ford II. When he took over Ford Motor Company from his aging father after World War II, he used Drucker's ideas to restructure the company.
The Japanese also embraced Drucker's advice. Japan's emergence as a major economic power following World War II has, in part, resulted from the implementation of Drucker's ideas.
Wrote 30 Books
Drucker went on to become a business consultant and a prolific writer. For more than 50 years, he has counseled countless companies and written more than 30 books, which have been translated into 25 languages. His books generally break down into three areas: social and political studies, such as The Future of Industrial Man and The Age of Discontinuity: Guidelines to Our Changing Society ; management books like The Practice of Management and Management: Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices ; and management advice like Management for Results and The Effective Executive.
Drucker also wrote countless magazine articles for various business publications. From 1975 to 1995, he penned a monthly column in The Wall Street Journal. Many of his essays have been published as collections. He has also written two novels and a personal memoir, Adventures of a Bystander. His books reflect his diverse interests and draw from many of the topics discussed in his childhood home, including history, philosophy and medicine.
The concepts Drucker introduced in the 1940s and 1950s have endured. In 1954, Drucker wrote his first book that taught people how to manage. Titled The Practice of Management. it introduced the concept of "management by objectives." He elaborated on the concept in subsequent books. Management by objectives requires managers to establish goals for their subordinates and devise the means for measuring results. Workers are then left alone to perform as they will and measure their performance. Drucker wrote, "It is not possible to be effective unless one first decides what one wants to accomplish." He went on to explain that every worker must be given the tools "to appraise himself, rather than be appraised and controlled from the outside."
Management by objectives has become an accepted business concept and is probably Drucker's most important contribution. In The World According to Peter Drucker, Richard H. Buskirk of Southern Methodist University is quoted as saying: "His emphasis upon the results of managerial actions rather than the supervision of activities was a major contribution for it shifted the entire focus of management thought to productivity-output-and away from work efforts-input."
Business "gurus" have come and gone during the last 50 years, but Drucker's message continues to inspire managers. In March 1997, the cover of Forbes magazine featured Drucker's picture and the statement "Still the Youngest Mind." Drucker was 88 at the time. An interview in the issue outlined Drucker's enduring message. He said, "I demand in every organization in which I have anything to say that managers start with these questions: What contribution can this institution hold you accountable for? What results should you be responsible for? And then ask, 'What authority do you then need?' This is the way to build a performing institution." After delivering this advice for 50 years, one might expect that most businesses would be implementing Drucker's model for a well-managed company. But in the interview, Drucker lamented, "I only wish there were more."
During the 1990s, Drucker wrote about social, political and economic changes of the "postcapitalist" era, which he says are as profound as those of the industrial revolution. In Managing for the Future: The 1990s and Beyond (1992), Drucker discussed the emergence of the "knowledge worker"—whose resources include specialized learning or competencies rather than land, labor or other forms of capital.
In his books, lectures and interviews, the emergence of knowledge workers is just one of the demographic changes Drucker warns businesses to prepare for. Others include a decreasing birth rate in developed countries, a shift in population from rural to urban centers, shifts in distribution of disposable income and global competitiveness. Drucker believes these changes will have tremendous implications for business.
Although Drucker foresaw the effects of technology on business and the rise of Japan as an economic power, he does not equate his prognosticating with predicting the future. "I never predict," he told a writer at Forbes. "I just look out the window and see what's visible—but not yet seen." In an interview in Training and Development, it was said that Drucker "sees what others overlook."
Drucker's career as a teacher, writer and lecturer continued past the age of 90. He was a professor of management at New York University from 1950 to 1972. He has taught at the Claremont Graduate School, Claremont, California, since 1971. Claremont named its graduate center after Drucker in 1987.
The curiosity instilled in Drucker as a child led him to pursue diverse subjects. He has taught humanities, social sciences, religion, philosophy, literature, history, government, management, economics, and statistics. He has an affinity for Japanese culture. He studies, collects and teaches Japanese art. In an article in Training and Development, he claimed that he has "not found a subject yet that is not sparkling with interest." Drucker has earned more than 20 honorary degrees from universities in Europe, Japan and the United States. He has received countless awards, recognizing his contributions to the study of management.
Beatty, Jack, The World According to Peter Drucker, The Free Press, 1998.
Contemporary Authors, Gale Group, 2000.
Gale Encyclopedia of U.S. Economic History, Gale Group, 1999.
Newsmakers 1992, Gale Research, 1992.
Forbes, March 1997, p. 122.
Training and Development, September 1998, p. 22. □
Drucker, Peter Ferdinand
DRUCKER, PETER FERDINAND
Peter Drucker (1909–) is considered to be the founding father of modern management. In a career that spanned most of the twentieth century Drucker has remained a highly influential writer, teacher, and philosopher of business management principles. The author of more than 30 books that have been translated into at least 25 languages, Drucker's contributions to management have been likened to Isaac Asimov's influence on astronomy.
Born in Austria as the eldest son of a liberal civil service official, Peter Drucker grew up among a cultured society that admired the city of Vienna before World War I (1914–18). After high school Drucker left war-torn Austria to take an apprentice job at an export firm in Hamburg, Germany. To please his father he also enrolled in University of Hamburg to study law. Although young Drucker worked during the day, the University offered no evening classes. He passed his courses by taking final exams without attending a single class. That was not to say that he did not study; many of Drucker's evenings during his college years were spent reading library books printed in various languages.
In 1929 the twenty-year-old Drucker published his first article, in which he confidently predicted that the stock market would rise. A few weeks later the market crashed. Having learned a lasting lesson about the unpredictable nature of stock markets, an older and wiser Drucker confessed that this was the last financial prediction he ever made. "Fortunately, there is no copy of the journal left," he stated in his book The Concept of a Corporation.
Drucker earned his doctorate in public and international law from the University of Frankfurt while working as an editor and financial writer. Shortly after the Nazis came into power in 1933, Drucker was offered a job as a writer by the Ministry of Information. Because he was opposed to Nazism, Drucker dared to publish a pamphlet that ridiculed that party's oppressive, totalitarian politics. The Nazis banned and burned the pamphlet. Drucker soon left Germany for England, where he took a job at an insurance company as a securities analyst.
While attending a Cambridge University seminar led by the famous economist John Maynard Keynes (1883–1946) Drucker suddenly realized his interest was in people, not economics. He shifted his focus of study to management. In 1937 he came to the United States as the correspondent for British financial newspapers. Drucker's first book, The End of Economic Man: The Origins of Totalitarianism, was published in 1939. In his lifetime more than 30 well-received books would follow.
In 1943 General Motors allowed Drucker to study their management practices. His observations of GM set the tone for The Concept of a Corporation, the first book to treat a business enterprise as a political and social institution. Concept of a Corporation became one of the most popular management books in history. It advocated the emerging era of cooperation between labor and management by explaining one of Drucker's most famous ideas—employees having managerial responsibility in job structure and the performance of major tasks, as well as decision–making power over schedules, safety codes, and work benefits. But when Drucker first proposed these ideas during the 1940s, they were considered a rebellious challenge to managerial authority.
Drucker has said that writing is the foundation of all his work. His topics are varied and include advice to managers in Managing for Results (1964) and The Effective Executive (1966); general management in Management: Task, Responsibilities, Practices (1974); social and political analysis in The Age of Discontinuity (1969); essay collections such as The Ecological Vision (1993), and two novels. His famous autobiography was titled Adventures of a Bystander (1979).
Along with his books Drucker also wrote articles for the world's most respected business journals, including Forbes, Inc., New Perspectives, The Atlantic Monthly, Esquire, Harvard Business Review, Foreign Affairs, The Public Interest, and The Economist. From 1975 to 1995, he wrote a monthly column in the Wall Street Journal.
Drucker spent his life teaching others as a consultant and as a professor. He served on the faculties of Sarah Lawrence, Bennington College, New York University, and the Claremont Graduate School. He taught not only management and economics but also government, statistics, religion, philosophy, and literature. Every three to four years of his teaching career he would take on a new subject, ranging from Japanese art to sixteenth-century finance. Drucker said that in more than half a century of teaching he never found a subject that did not spark his interest.
Sixty years after the publication of his first book, Peter Drucker remained a mentor to generations of managers. He was respected for his past insights and the originality of his contemporary ideas. As he approached the age of 90, Drucker appeared on the cover of Forbes magazine with the caption "Still the Youngest Mind."
Beatty, Jack. The World According to Peter Drucker. New York: The Free Press, 1998.
Drucker, Peter. Adventures of a Bystander. New York: Harper & Row, 1979.
Galagan, Patricia A., and Stephen H. Rhinesmith. "Peter Drucker: Interview with Management Guru." Training and Development, September 1998.
Johnson, Mike. "Drucker Speaks His Mind." Management Review, October 1995.
Tarrant, John J. Drucker: The Man Who Invented Corporate Society. Boston: Cahners, Books, Inc., 1976.
Drucker, Peter Ferdinand
DRUCKER, Peter Ferdinand
(b. 19 November 1909 in Vienna, Austria), writer, teacher, and philosopher of business management principles and author of more than thirty well-received books, who is considered to be the founding father of modern management theory.
Drucker is the eldest son of Adolph Bertram, a lawyer and professor, and Caroline Drucker. The Drucker children were raised in a cultured environment in Vienna during World War I. Drucker detested the uninspired Austrian school system, and although he scored good grades, he was driven by curiosity and preferred to study on his own. At age seventeen he moved to Frankfurt, Germany, where he worked as a financial writer, studied toward his doctorate in law, and watched the rise of Hitler. His first book was a brief and admiring account of a nineteenth-century Jew, Friedrich Julius Stahl, which was banned and burned when the Nazis came to power. He later said that he had deliberately chosen to write a "book that would make it impossible for the Nazis to have anything to do with me." At age twenty-four he fled to England. He married his wife, Doris, and immigrated to the United States in 1937; the couple has four children. The rise of Nazism profoundly influenced Drucker. He determined that institutions that function "responsibly, autonomously, and on a high level of achievement" are the only safeguards of freedom.
More than fifty years after the publication of his first book, The End of Economic Man: The Origins of Totalitarianism (1939), Drucker declared that writing was the foundation for all of the diverse pursuits of his life. His body of work paints Drucker as an economist and historian as well as a political scientist and sociologist. Although he explored and understood many disciplines, he would not define himself by any one of them. He would come to describe himself as a social ecologist, that is, someone "concerned with man's man-made environment." With The End of Economic Man, Drucker established himself as an unorthodox thinker on economics, politics, and society. During the 1940s Drucker became deeply interested in the idea of the organization and its increasing influence on society. The responsibilities of business owners were being delegated from the business owner to a system of managers, each charged with bringing a team of people to work together effectively for a goal. Drucker became one of the first people to study business management when few noticed that it existed as a discipline. In the 1940s there were no business schools or management texts as they are known in the twenty-first century. Drucker, who was at that time teaching, was warned by a colleague at Vermont's Bennington College that by pursuing this course, he would destroy his career in academia.
At first Drucker was not able to gain access to a business in order to study it. The companies he approached were suspicious of his motives, until he fell in with General Motors, which gave him total access. Concept of the Corporation (1946) was the revolutionary result and ultimately became one of the most popular management books in history. At the time, Drucker's idea that employees be given managerial responsibility in job structure was considered a challenge to managerial authority. He was ahead of the curve again in the early 1950s when he predicted that computers would change business and in 1961 when he was the first to see Japan's impending economic marvel. In 1954 Drucker essentially invented the concept of management with his book The Practice of Management.
By the 1960s Drucker's ideas on managers and management were widely accepted. He had so established himself as "the man who changed the face of industrial America" that President Richard M. Nixon presented him before a speech without a word of identification. Many of Drucker's writings of the 1960s were tomes of practical and mundane advice and instruction to managers. Managing for Results: Economic Tasks and Risk-taking Decisions (1964), was a drier and less exalted book than The Practice of Management. This work is rife with lists and is the only of his books to contain charts. The Effective Executive (1967), is Drucker's most enjoyable management book and is cleverly written and full of one-liners. He begins the book looking at the difference between doing the right thing and getting the right thing done. The difference between the two, he writes, is effectiveness—the effective executive gets the right things done.
Drucker published The Age of Discontinuity: Guidelines to Our Changing Society, a social and political analysis, in 1969. In it he describes societal changes of the decade that were resulting in business and social disharmonies, such as the revolutions in technology, specialization, and trade that were changing the face of business and society. The Age of Discontinuity calls for new theories and laws to help business achieve success in the face of these shifts. Drucker describes the development of a postindustrial society that emphasizes the qualitative problems of work and social organization "at a time when alienation and unrest characterize much of the world." While he discusses "very serious problems," Drucker writes about them as opportunities for new and more creative thinking and problem solving.
While many books of social analysis written in the 1960s have become nostalgic or even obsolete, The Age of Discontinuity reads as if it could have been written yesterday. In it Drucker predicts that knowledge would drive the economy of the twenty-first century. He also foresees the development of four new industries and patterns of economic activity: an increasing value for information, the rediscovery of the oceans as an economic resource, the rise of materials such as plastic, and the advent of knowledge workers working from home. He predicts the development of a new world economy and sees that people would soon become disenchanted with government. Drucker could not have been more accurate.
Well into his nineties, Drucker's ideas continued to be lively and viable. He wrote magazine articles and appeared on the cover of the investment magazine Forbes, which proclaimed him "Still the Youngest Mind." The hip technology magazine Wired featured an interview with Drucker asking not about the past but about the future. He continued for many years to teach management theory and consult to businesses and nonprofit organizations. His publisher, Harvard University Press, intends to keep his most popular books in print for seventeen years after his death.
Drucker's autobiography is Adventures of a Bystander (1979). Biographies include Jack Beatty, The World According to Peter Drucker (1998), and John E. Flaherty, Peter Drucker: Shaping the Managerial Mind (1999). A useful article is Fritz F. Heimann's review of The Age of Discontinuity in Commentary (June 1969).