Peter Starbuck
"Reclaiming Drucker" - Page 4

Economic man

Further dynamic force was given to Drucker.s ideas by the German economist and philosopher, Max Weber, who had concluded that the growth of the US could be attributed to Protestant Christianity and its "work ethic". Weber.s other influence on Drucker was his theory of bureaucratic management. For Weber, bureaucracy was a highly developed and responsible method where everyone knew their place and contribution within the organisation, with control coming from the top. Of Weber.s contribution, Drucker wrote "that amongst the great men of management here are only two pure scholars", one being Max Weber and the other the Australian sociologist, Elton Mayo. But, although he respected Weber.s theory of bureaucracy, he did not adopt it. For Drucker, management had to be driven by the needs of market. His most remembered epigram is the statement that "the purpose of a business is to create a customer" (to which he later added, "and get paid").

Many of Drucker.s early influences began to come together in his writings from 1939, beginning with The End of Economic Man, published in May1939. Here he names many of these influences, with frequent references to Christianity, Hitler and Marx. Drucker.s position on Christianity and Hitler has been established. Of these two influences, Christian values continue to appear throughout Drucker.s work, while the malign influence of Hitler was to be exorcised in Drucker.s next book, The Future of Industrial Man (1942), although Marx occasionally recurs.

Marx receives the same rational treatment that Drucker had given to Hitler. He accepts the existence of a proletariat, but argues that once the workers had become industrialized with skills that gave them mobility, then communism would not take root. He showed respect for Marx.s intellect in general while steadfastly rejecting his ideas. As Drucker.s search for his workable society evolved into his ideas on management, however, he dismissed Marx.s economics as "a dupe" because the latter failed initially to regard the contribution to production made by technology and, even more unforgivingly, management.s contribution to productive output.

Another influence that appears in The End of Economic Man is the Russian, Fyodor Dostoevsky, today best remembered as a writer. Drucker aligns himself with Dostoevsky.s general Christian beliefs, and in particular the obligation that individuals must make their own decisions regarding their personal life evenly and especially the most difficult ones. Dostoevsky.s is endorsing the earlier influence of Kierkegaard. For Drucker, Dostoevsky.s message is a warning against the individual surrendering to a dictator the likes of Hitler who promised to relieve people of having to make unpleasant decisions by making them for them.

As Drucker continued his search for a workable society, he began also to consider the works of important business leaders. In particular, he considered the work of the Welshman Robert Owen, who developed his model mill community in New Lanark, Scotland. Owen.s ideas on free education, social support and humane working conditions were very advanced for their day, and Drucker attributes to him the concept of industrial democracy, referring to him as "that almost saintly figure of early capitalism".