The most influential figure in the development of management theory and practice, Austrian-born American consultant and author Peter Drucker’s thirty-nine books have been translated into more than thirty-six languages. Drucker’s writings have predicted many of the major developments of the late twentieth century and he was a leader in the development of management education.
Rather than analyzing statistics, Drucker’s work focused on relationships among human beings, how organizations can bring out the best in people, and how workers can find a sense of community and dignity in a modern society organized around large institutions.
Among Drucker’s early influences were Austrian economist Joseph Schumpeter, a friend of his father’s who impressed upon Drucker the importance of innovation and entrepreneurship, Friedrich Hayek and Ludwig von Mises, who were also regular guests at his childhood home in Vienna.
Drucker earned a doctorate in international and public law from the Goethe University Frankfurt in 1931 and after residing in England for several years, became a naturalized citizen of the United States where he had a distinguished career as a professor of management at Bennington College from 1942 to 1949 and New York University from 1950 to 1971.
Drucker’s first published book, The End of Economic Man, was published by John Day in 1939. Long recognized as a cornerstone work, The End of Economic Man focused on the breakdown of the social and political structure of Europe which culminated in the rise of Nazi totalitarianism. Drucker interpreted the catastrophe of Nazism as a fundamental revolution that resulted from the political alienation of the European masses.
In July 1940, the President of Bennington College, Robert Leigh, wrote to publisher W.W. Norton, asking him to forward the names of refugee scholars who had been forced to leave Europe as result of the war, and who might benefit from spending a year at Bennington as “honorary fellows of the college.” Later that week, Drucker, himself a refugee, contacted Leigh with a request to bring family friend Karl Polanyi from Vienna to the college.
“Drucker devoted an entire passage of his memoirs, Adventures of a Bystander, to the Polanyi family. Elsewhere, he noted that “perhaps I learned the most from Polanyi, although not formally because we were friends.” Among other things, Drucker described in Polanyi a talent for the practice of social ecology: “He analyzed, with an uncanny knack for seeing the importance of inconspicuous developments-at an early stage.” (Drucker’s Lost Art of Management, by Joseph A. Maciariello and Karen E. Linkletter).
Published in 1942, Drucker’s second book, The Future of Industrial Man presented an analysis of the weak points of existing social institutions and political structures and offered a systematic solution, suggesting that industrial society could, in fact, be built as a free society.
Drucker’s career as a business thinker took off in 1946, when his initial writings on politics and society won him access to the internal workings of General Motors (GM), one of the largest companies in the world at that time. The resulting book, Concept of the Corporation, popularized GM’s multidivisional structure and led to numerous articles, consulting engagements, and additional books.
The first study ever published on the the constitution, structure, and internal dynamics of a major business enterprise, the books was initially rejected by General Motors managers as being unfairly critical and antibusiness, yet it soon became a model for not only businesses, but also government agencies, research laboratories, hospitals, and universities worldwide.
In his fourth published work, The New Society, Drucker extended his previous works into a systematic, organized analysis of the industrial society that emerged out of World War II. He analyzed large business enterprises, governments, labor unions, and the place of the individual within the social context of these institutions. Although written when the industrial society he described was at its peak of productivity, Drucker’s basic conceptual frame has well stood the test of time.
Following publication of the first printing of The New Society, George G. Higgins wrote in Commonwealth that “Drucker has analyzed, as brilliantly as any modem writer, the problems of industrial relations in the individual company or ‘enterprise.’ He is thoroughly at home in economics, political science, industrial psychology, and industrial sociology, and has succeeded admirably in harmonizing the findings of all four disciplines and applying them meaningfully to the practical problems of the enterprise.”
Another timeless Drucker classic, published in 1967, The Effective Executive presents Drucker’s theory that the measure of an executive lies in the ability to “get the right things done”, which usually involves doing what other people have overlooked as well as avoiding what is unproductive.
Intelligence, imagination, and knowledge, Drucker argues, may all be wasted in an executive job without the acquired habits of mind that mold them into results. He identified five practices essential to business effectiveness: managing time, choosing what to contribute to the organization, knowing where and how to mobilize strength for best effect, Setting the right priorities, and finally, knitting all of them together with effective decision-making.
In 1974, Peter Drucker published the book that would come to define the field and concept of “Management”. In this seminal work, Drucker explored how managers–in the for-profit and public service sectors alike–can perform effectively. Examining management cases with a global eye, Drucker laid out the essentials of performance, and of how a manager interacts with their organization and the social and cultural environment in which they operate.
Throughout his career, Drucker published thirty-nine books, including his autobiography, Adventures of a Bystander. He also penned a regular column in the Wall Street Journal for 10 years and contributed frequently to the Harvard Business Review, The Atlantic Monthly, and The Economist. In addition to the seminal works featured above, our collection includes signed first editions of several of Drucker’s other important works including: Innovation and Entrepreneurship, The Frontiers of Management, Men, Ideas and Politics, and Post-Capitalist Society among many others. View the complete collection.