Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The End of Economic Man, Introduction

Well, if you expected this book to be about management, you are going to be surprised. It’s a critique of Nazism. The Nazi government of Germany was apparently of interest to the economists and business people of 1939. It would be easy to skip this book and jump to the Idea of the Corporation, which clearly starts his career in the study of management but we need to begin here. Perhaps by looking at a subject that seems remote from the topics of management we can get a clearer sense not only of Drucker’s priorities but also see a little more clearly the foundation on which modern management was built.

When this book was published, the most active manager in my family was my grandfather, the minority partner in a lumberyard. He held, I have been told, a job of some respect and authority, though I doubt that he had a dozen people working for him. I don't think that he would have connected management and Nazi Germany. Still, the second world war gave him the greatest management education that he would receive. In the fall of 1939, he was called into the army and would spend the bulk of the war commanding a prisoner of war camp in Alabama for captured German soldiers. It taught him more advanced management than he had ever experienced. I suspect that many of Drucker's early readers had similar experiences, as they saw the scale of industry change in less than three years. So we might as well begin with Drucker's view of the Nazi's and the growing threat of war.

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