Hailed as "the father of management theory," Peter F. Drucker was also (as he once labeled himself) a "social ecologist"—a student of the success and failure, the rise and fall of societies. In one of his last public interviews, on the National Public Radio program On Point, he saw a "very difficult transition" coming for Americans as they adjust to a world in which their country is no longer "the big boss"—a world of stronger economies, more creative societies, and plural value systems. Certainly, he said, the new century is beginning badly for the United States. Even though President George W. Bush had awarded him the nation's highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, in 2002, Drucker told On Point in December 2004 of his despair over the "tragedy of Iraq—a total disaster." Being the big boss for so long had given Americans a false sense of their power—and of their country's rightness. The humbling of U.S. power in Iraq and the rejection of U.S. pretensions to virtue around the world, he feared, was a harbinger of humblings to come.
"'Invent Radium or I'll Pull Your Hair'" (August 1998)
The story of how young Doris Schmitz fought for independence from her Prussian mother, got an education, and fell in love with an eloquent young Austrian named Peter Drucker. By Doris Drucker
"Beyond the Information Revolution" (October 1999)
The author gauges the significance of e-commerce and throws light on the future of "the knowledge worker," his own coinage. By Peter F. Drucker
"The Age of Social Transformation" (November 1994)
A survey of the epoch that began early in this century, and an analysis of its latest manifestations. By Peter F. Drucker
Peter Drucker was born into a country that precipitately came down in the world. In 1914 the Austro-Hungarian Empire ruled more than 50 million Europeans from the Alps to the borders of Russia. But by 1918 Austria had been reduced to an alpine republic of 6.5 million, and Drucker's native Vienna had been rendered a mere capital of nostalgia. The Great War had splintered the "Dual Monarchy" of the Emperor Franz Josef into the national and religious shards that are still contending in the Balkans today. "How does it feel to be ending your days under the rule of another Austrian?" (California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger) Drucker was recently asked. "I'm not impressed with Austrians," he sardonically replied. "I've known too many of them."
Like Conrad's "Mr. Kurtz," all Europe went into the making of Peter Drucker. His father, Adolph, was a lawyer/ economist with a high government job; his mother, Caroline, had studied medicine. They shared their professional interests with Peter and his younger brother Gerhart, and gave them an unrivaled education by including them in their Vienna "evenings." "My father had a dinner party every Monday" Peter recalled. "There were often economists, ranking civil servants, even a major international lawyer." Later in the week Caroline would hold a medical dinner. At one, Peter heard leading physicians debate the theories of Vienna's most famous psychiatrist, Sigmund Freud. There were also musical evenings: Peter's grandmother was a soloist with the Vienna Philharmonic under the baton of Gustav Mahler. And there were literary evenings, even mathematical and statistical evenings. Peter's formal schooling could not add much to this intellectual saturation. Still, he "worshipped" Miss Elsa and Miss Sophy, the sister-teachers at the private school where his parents sent him after the public school failed to teach him to write legibly. It was a progressive school: Miss Elsa and Miss Sophy taught the boys to cook and sew and the girls to hammer and saw. Miss Elsa offered terse encouragement ("Better than last week"), while Miss Sophy's approval came in the form of a warm smile—"pure bliss to the beholder." "When fifty years later, the Women's Libbers announced that the Lord is really a woman," Peter recalled, "I was not a bit surprised."