Peter Ferdinand Drucker / 1909–2005 / Vienna, Austro-Hungarian Empire / Journalist, Economist, Professor, Business Consultant, Author
In the modern corporation the decisive power, that of the managers, is derived from no one but the managers themselves controlled by nobody and nothing and responsible to no one. It is in the most literal sense unfounded, unjustified, uncontrolled and irresponsible power.The Future of Industrial Man (1942).
Unless the power of the corporation can be organized on an accepted principle of legitimacy, it will… be taken over by a central government.The Future of Industrial Man (1942).
Aims of Politics
. . . the basic decisions are… about aims. . . . what is desirable… the greater good or the lesser evil in the case of conflicting aims. . . . what sacrifice we are willing to make for a certain achievement, and at what point the sacrifice outweighs the advantages.The Future of Industrial Man (1942).
Equally striking is the fact that racial anti-Semitism was not taken seriously even by the great majority of Nazis. “It is just a catchword to attract voters” was a standing phrase which everybody repeated and believed, and that I took it seriously was more than once regarded as definite proof of my stupidity and gullibility.The End of Economic Man: The Origins of Totalitarianism (1939).
There is only one valid definition of a business purpose: to create a customer.The Practice of Management (1954).
Success always obsoletes the very behavior that achieved it.Management: Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices (1973).
One cannot hire a hand; the whole man always comes with it.Management: Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices (1973).
Capitalism as a social order and as a creed is the expression of the belief in economic progress as leading toward the freedom and equality of the individual in a free and open society. Marxism expects this society to result from the abolition of private profit. Capitalism expects the free and equal society to result from the enthronement of private profit as supreme ruler of social behavior…The End of Economic Man: The Origins of Totalitarianism (1939).
Capitalism is being attacked not because it is inefficient or misgoverned but because it is cynical. And indeed a society based on the assertion that private vices become public benefits cannot endure, no matter how impeccable its logic, no matter how great its benefits.The Practice of Management (1954).
We need in this modern world . . . an incredible number of very highly trained technicians and professional men. . . . But nothing will be gained unless [they] are also educated as citizens . . . to know about the ends, the beliefs, the purposes . . . to which their craft and skill is to contribute . . . about the basic issues which . . . every generation of free men has had to decide. . . . it is the liberal arts . . . that is our lighthouse in the dark and uncharted waters of the postwar world.“An Economist Looks at the Peace,” Southwestern Bulletin, n.s.,1945, 32(3): 3–11.
Fascism is the stage reached after communism has proved an illusion. And it has been proven as much of an illusion in Stalinist Russia as it proven an illusion in pre-Hitler Germany. Communism in anything but name was abandoned in Russia when the Five-Year Plan was substituted for the New Economic Policy (NEP) after Lenin’s death.The End of Economic Man: The Origins of Totalitarianism (1939).
It is not enough for the economist in a free society to be a good economic craftsman; he must also think and act as a citizen.“An Economist Looks at the Peace,” Southwestern Bulletin, n.s.,1945, 32(3): 3–11.
As for the explanation that fascism is a last desperate attempt of capitalism to delay the socialist revolution, it simply is not true. It is not true that ‘big business’ promoted fascism. On the contrary, both in Italy and in Germany the proportion of fascist sympathizers and backers was smallest in the industrial and financial classes. It is equally untrue that “big business” profits from fascism; of all the classes it probably suffers most from totalitarian economics and Wehrwirtschaft [economics of the military state].The End of Economic Man: The Origins of Totalitarianism (1939).
. . . the ‘total state’ of fascism is not a political alignment within the existing political and social setup, but that it is a revolution which, like all revolutions, works from without.The End of Economic Man: The Origins of Totalitarianism (1939).
Of course, every revolution repudiates what went on before and considers itself a conscious break with the past; it is only posterity that sees, or imagines it sees, the historical continuity. Fascism, however, goes much further in its negation of the past than any earlier political movement, because it makes this negation its main platform. What is even more important, it denies simultaneously ideas and tendencies which are in themselves antithetic. It is antiliberal, but it is also anticonservative; antireligious and antiatheist; anticapitalist and antisocialist; antiwar and antipacifist…The End of Economic Man: The Origins of Totalitarianism (1939).
Freedom rests on ethical decisions. But the political sphere deals with power. …Individually, power may well be the goal of personal ambition. But socially it is a servant; its organization is only a means to a social end. . . . power distributes rank and determines relations within society; it is a means of internal organization. But the end of society is always an ethical purpose.The Future of Industrial Man (1942).
. . . freedom cannot be legislated into existence—though it can be legislated out of existence if the necessary minimum of free government is destroyed. . . . freedom rests upon beliefs and social institutions and not upon laws. . . . legislative enactment does not create or determine institutional structure, social beliefs and human nature.The Future of Industrial Man (1942).
There can be no freedom if one man or one group of men . . . is assumed . . . inherently perfect or perfectible. Its claim to perfection or perfectibility is a claim to absolute rule.The Future of Industrial Man (1942).
Today we know that a free society is not the product of nature, but of man; that it is not self-maintaining and self-winding, but demands the vigilant and constant support of responsible citizens. . . . freedom is not inevitable and easy . . . but the product of a long, hard struggle of man’s reason and man’s faith that has to be fought over and won again by every generation.“An Economist Looks at the Peace,” Southwestern Bulletin, n.s.,1945, 32(3): 3–11.
The only thing we know about the future is that it is going to be different.Management: Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices (1973).
We have only one alternative: either to build a functioning industrial society or see freedom itself disappear in anarchy and tyranny.The Future of Industrial Man (1942).
No society can function as a society, unless it gives the individual member social status and function, and unless the decisive social power is legitimate.The Future of Industrial Man (1942).
Unless we realize that the essence of Nazism is also an attempt to solve a universal problem of Western civilization—that of the industrial society—and that the basic principles on which the Nazis base this attempt are also in no way confined to Germany, we do not know what we fight for or what we fight against. . . . The war is being fought for the structure of industrial society—its basic principles, its purposes, and its institutions.The Future of Industrial Man (1942).
All economic activity is by definition “high risk.” And defending yesterday—that is, not innovating—is far more risky than making tomorrow.Innovations and Entrepreneurship (1984).
This society in which knowledge workers dominate is in danger of a new “class conflict” between the large minority of knowledge workers and the majority of workers who will make their livings through traditional ways, either by manual work . . . or by service work. The productivity of knowledge work—still abysmally low—will predictably become the economic challenge of the knowledge society. On it will depend the ability of the knowledge society to give decent incomes, and with them dignity and status, to non knowledge people.Managing in a Time of Great Change (1995).
The better a man is, the more mistakes will he make—for the more new things he will try. I would never promote a man into a top level job who had not made mistakes, and big ones at that. Otherwise he is sure to be mediocre.The Practice of Management (1954).
The Nazi agitator whom, many years ago, I heard proclaim to a wildly cheering peasants’ meeting: “We don’t want lower bread prices, we don’t want higher bread prices, we don’t want unchanged bread prices—we want National-Socialist bread prices,” came nearer explaining fascism than anybody I have heard since.The End of Economic Man: The Origins of Totalitarianism (1939).
Of these denials of European tradition one is especially important: that is the refutation of the demand that the political and social order and the authority set up under it have to justify themselves as benefiting their subjects. Hardly any other concept or idea of our past is held up to so much ridicule by fascism as that of the justification of power. ‘Power is its own justification’ is regarded as self-evident. Nothing shows better how far the totalitarian revolution has already gone than the general acceptance of this new maxim throughout Europe as a matter of course… [I]t is the most startling innovation. For the last two thousand years… justification of power and authority has been the central problem of European political thought and… political history. And since Europe became Christian there has never been any other approach… than… seeking justification in the benefit which the exercise of power confers upon its subjects… Not even the most fanatical advocates of absolute monarchy would have dared to justify the sovereign otherwise.The End of Economic Man: The Origins of Totalitarianism (1939).
The most dangerous and at the same time most stupid explanation of fascism is the propaganda theory. In the first place, I have never been able to find anyone who could reconcile it with the fact that right up to the fascist victory—and in Italy beyond it—literally all means of propaganda were in the hands of uncompromising enemies of fascism. There was not one widely-read newspaper but poured ridicule on Hitler and Mussolini while the Nazi and the fascist press were unread and on the verge of bankruptcy. The radio in Germany, owned by the government, issued one anti-Nazi broadside after the other. More powerful than both, the established churches used all the enormous direct influence of the pulpit and the confessional to fight fascism and Nazism.The End of Economic Man: The Origins of Totalitarianism (1939).
Fascism is the result of the collapse of Europe’s spiritual and social order… catastrophes broke through the everyday routine which makes men accept existing forms, institutions and tenets as unalterable natural laws. They suddenly exposed the vacuum behind the facade of society.The End of Economic Man: The Origins of Totalitarianism (1939).
. . . in a free society each individual has a responsibility towards the beliefs of his society—a responsibility on which all the rights and duties of citizenship are founded.“An Economist Looks at the Peace,” Southwestern Bulletin, n.s.,1945, 32(3): 3–11.
If war production should remain the only way out of a long-term depression, industrial society would be reduced to the choice between suicide through total war or suicide through total depression.The Concept of the Corporation (1945).
For if this country—or any other of the great powers—were to make its defense program a function of its domestic employment situation, it would become impossible to conduct a constructive and well-thought out foreign policy or to develop any lasting collaboration.The Concept of the Corporation (1945).