Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Future of Industrial Man, Chapter 4 and the Solid Gold Cadillac

A local theatre recently produced the play Solid Gold Cadillac but George Kauffman and some other writer – a Barnard professor I believe. (I should know this fact as I sat next to his daughter at the opening.) It was not a great play. It is nothing compared to You Can’t Take it With You or even The Man Who Came to Dinner, the two great Kauffman comedies. At the same time, it got close to the key issue of this chapter of Drucker: that corporate management has no legitimate basis for its power.

The play tells the story of a company that is vaguely General Motors. It is run by a group of executives who have little interest in anything beyond wealth and womanizing. They hold control by getting proxies from their shareholders who know nothing about company and gladly give the proxies to management. The scheme falls apart when a woman (an actress who is playing an actress) is given the job of shareholder relations, gets all the proxies and takes over the company.

As a work of art it is both silly and lacking any truly interesting character. However, it does represent the times well. It was writing slightly after The Future of Industrial Man and it recognizes, as the business literature of the time was starting to comprehend, that management had become divorced from the shareholders.

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