In brief discussion with an executive who was talking about enabling more decentralized interactions between teams, Peter Drucker’s name came up. I’ve been meaning to do some work on Drucker for quite some time. While studies of his work are more likely to be found in MBA programs, I think the volume of the work and its time span, moving from World War II through the dawn of the Internet, could be useful reading for anyone approaching an analysis of the rise and struggle of modern business and the societies who must contend with it for better or worse. Drucker is interesting because he was, in many ways, a true believer in corporations while simultaneously offering a very deep critique of the approach and dynamics that had come to dominate their organizational and functional models. I thought that I heard his name today was particularly telling as it came on the day when the CEOs of many large companies announced a drastic revisioning of their approach to their companies, their employees, and their shareholders. In their announcement, these CEOs noted that profits cannot be the only guiding driver of the modern corporation. Corporations must also focus on building and contributing to the growth of their employees and their communities. This shift is a drastic departure from the past several decades—albeit one that is still more lip service than action—and it appears to echo much of Drucker’s sense of how companies should work in the modern age.
While I do think that today’s press release was more PR than practical change. It is encouraging to see these ideas filtering into the corporate mindset. I should note that I am not an expert on Drucker. In fact, the mention of his name today took me by surprise as he has remained on my “to read” list of organizational and business theorists whose work intersects my own. His focus on people and community had always intrigued me. I will say that what I have read of his work definitely shows its age, and I do think there are opportunities for serious critique. That said, his work is worth re-visiting both as an historical marker on the rise of the modern corporate state and in context to the ways in which it is already being considered and adapted to ecological models of organizational development and communication via the forum that bears his name.
To that end, I have ordered The End of Economic Man. It is one of his earliest texts, but I am particularly interested in reading it in context with other authors whose perspectives on war and alienation might reinforce or resist those of Drucker’s. I am not, yet, sure how it will play out on this site. This is all still a bit amorphous in terms of a project. That said, you’re welcome to follow along as it and other projects develop.