Dr. Hermann Simon
"Man of the Past, Man of the Future" - Page 6

Drucker’s historical competence cannot, of course, be interpreted “mechanically”. History does not repeat itself, nor does it follow given laws, as Karl Marx or Oswald Spengler have suggested.16 Nevertheless, it can be said that the human being has changed very little during the known course of history. The statements by Plato, Aristotle, or Seneca about the human being, his/her behavior and conduct, are as accurate today as they were in ancient times. We gain, therefore, valuable insight when we interpret current developments and the future in light of historical analogies. This perfectly describes Peter Drucker’s great strength – as well as the most notable weakness of nearly all management authors. Their knowledge of history is typically sporadic and superficial or totally nonexistent. As opposed to those who have dubbed themselves specialists of entrepreneurial history but have only covered a small portion of this field, Drucker possesses a much broader foundation of historical knowledge. Without this type of historical understanding and consciousness, it becomes easy in management to fall victim to the current buzzwords or trends of the day. The comments of the philosopher George Santayana that history will repeat itself for those who do not want to learn from it is perhaps especially applicable to management, which often purports to create something new, although it is really only serving old wine in new wineskins. 

Peter Drucker teaches us with history as his tool. He holds a mirror in front of us that opens new perspectives and helps us to better understand the future. And this brings us back to Soren Kierkegaard who said, “Life can only be understood by looking back, but can only be lived by looking forward.” Precisely because he is a man of the past, Peter Drucker shines as a thinker of the future.

16 Oswald Spengler, Der Untergang des Abendlandes, Munich: Beck 1923.