Peter Drucker

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Peter Ferdinand Drucker (1909-11-19 - 2005-11-11) was an Austria-born American writer, management consultant and university professor. In 1943 he became a naturalized citizen of the United States. He taught at New York University and Claremont Graduate University respectively.


  • ...the information revolution. Almost everybody is sure ...that it is proceeding with unprecedented speed; and ...that its effects will be more radical than anything that has gone before. Wrong, and wrong again. Both in its speed and its impact, the information revolution uncannily resembles its two predecessors ...The first industrial revolution, triggered by James Watt's improved steam engine in the mid-1770s...did not produce many social and economic changes until the invention of the railroad in 1829 ...Similarly, the invention of the computer in the mid-1940s, was not until 40 years later, with the spread of the Internet in the 1990s, that the information revolution began to bring about big economic and social changes. ...the same emergence of the “super-rich” of their day, characterized both the first and the second industrial revolutions. ...These parallels are close and striking enough to make it almost certain that, as in the earlier industrial revolutions, the main effects of the information revolution on the next society still lie ahead. -- "The way ahead" (November 2001)
  • This new knowledge economy will rely heavily on knowledge workers. ...the most striking growth will be in “knowledge technologists:” computer technicians, software designers, analysts in clinical labs, manufacturing technologists, paralegals. ...They are not, as a rule, much better paid than traditional skilled workers, but they see themselves as “professionals.” Just as unskilled manual workers in manufacturing were the dominant social and political force in the 20th century, knowledge technologists are likely to become the dominant social—-and perhaps also political—-force over the next decades. -- "The next society" (November 2001)
  • Knowing Yourself ...We also seldom know what gifts we are not endowed with. We will have to learn where we belong, what we have to learn to get the full benefit from our strengths, where our weaknesses lie, what our values are. We also have to know ourselves temperamentally: "Do I work well with people, or am I a loner? What am I committed to? And what is my contribution?" -- Managing Knowledge Means Managing Oneself Leader to Leader, No. 16 (Spring 2000)
  • ...all earlier pluralist societies destroyed themselves because no one took care of the common good. They abounded in communities but could not sustain community, let alone create it. -- The New Pluralism Leader to Leader, No. 14 (Fall 1999)
  • ...human beings need community. If there are no communities available for constructive ends, there will be destructive, murderous communities... Only the social sector, that is, the nongovernmental, nonprofit organization, can create what we now need, communities for citizens... What the dawning 21st century needs above all is equally explosive growth of the nonprofit social sector in building communities in the newly dominant social environment, the city. Civilizing the City, Leader to Leader, No. 7 (Winter 1998)
  • Universities won't survive. The future is outside the traditional campus, outside the traditional classroom. Distance learning is coming on fast." I got my degree through E-mail, Forbes (June 16, 1997)
  • Thirty years from now the big university campuses will be relics. Universities won't survive. It's as large a change as when we first got the printed book. Do you realize that the cost of higher education has risen as fast as the cost of health care? And for the middle-class family, college education for their children is as much of a necessity as is medical care—without it the kids have no future. Such totally uncontrollable expenditures, without any visible improvement in either the content or the quality of education, means that the system is rapidly becoming untenable. Higher education is in deep crisis.” Seeing things as they really are, Forbes (March 10, 1997)
  • ...what's absolutely unforgivable is the financial benefit top management people get for laying off people. There is no excuse for it. No justification. This is morally and socially unforgivable, and we will pay a heavy price for it. -- A cantankerous interview with Peter Drucker, Wired (August 1996)
  • That people even in well paid jobs choose ever earlier retirement is a severe indictment of our organizations -- not just business, but government service, the universities. These people don't find their jobs interesting. -- The Shape of Things to Come: An Interview with Peter F. Drucker Leader to Leader, No. 1 (Summer 1996)
  • The postwar [WWII] GI Bill of Rights--and the enthusiastic response to it on the part of America's veterans--signaled the shift to the knowledge society. Future historians may consider it the most important event of the twentieth century. We are clearly in the midst of this transformation; indeed, if history is any guide, it will not be completed until 2010 or 2020. But already it has changed the political, economic and moral landscape of the world. -- Managing in a Time of Great Change (1995)
  • This society in which knowledge workers dominate is in danger of a new "class conflict" between the large minority of knowledge workers and the majority of workers who will make their livings through traditional ways, either by manual work...or by service work. The productivity of knowledge work--still abysmally low--will predictably become the economic challenge of the knowledge society. On it will depend the ability of the knowledge society to give decent incomes, and with them dignity and status, to non knowledge people. -- Managing in a Time of Great Change (1995)
  • I would hope that American managers--indeed, managers worldwide--continue to appreciate what I have been saying almost from day one: that management is so much more than exercising rank and privilege, that it is much more than "making deals." Management affects people and their lives. -- Managing in a Time of Great Change (1995)
  • I think the growth industry of the future in this country and the world will soon be the continuing education of adults. ...I think the educated person of the future is somebody who realizes the need to continue to learn. That is the new definition and it is going to change the world we live in and work in. -- Managing in a Time of Great Change (1995)
  • Increasingly, politics is not about "who gets what, when, how" but about values, each of them considered to be absolute. Politics is about "the right to life"...It is about the environment. It is about gaining equality for groups alleged to be oppressed...None of these issues is economic. All are fundamentally moral. -- Atlantic Monthly (1994)
  • For the social ecologist language is not "communication." It is not just "message." It is substance. It is the cement that holds humanity together. It creates community and communication. ...Social ecologists need not be "great" writers; but they have to be respectful writers, caring writers. -- The Ecological Vision (1993)
  • That knowledge has become the resource, rather than a resource, is what makes our society "post-capitalist." -- Post-Capitalist Society p. 45 (1993)
  • If the feudal knight was the clearest embodiment of society in the early Middle Ages, and the "bourgeois" under Capitalism, the educated person will represent society in the post-capitalist society in which knowledge has become the central resource. -- Post-Capitalist Society (1993)
  • [[S%F8ren_Kierkegaard|Kierkegaard]] has another answer: human existence is possible as existence not in despair, as existence not in tragedy; it is possible as existence in faith... Faith is the belief that in God the impossible is possible, that in Him time and eternity are one, that both life and death are meaningful. -- The Ecological Vision: Reflections on the American Condition (1993)
  • A manager's task is to make the strengths of people effective and their weakness irrelevant--and that applies fully as much to the manager's boss as it applies to the manager's subordinates. -- Managing for the Future: The 1990's and Beyond (1992)
  • The subordinate's job is not to reform or reeducate the boss, not to make him conform to what the business schools or the management book say bosses should be like. It is to enable a particular boss to perform as a unique individual. -- Managing for the Future: The 1990's and Beyond (1992)
  • Keep the boss aware. Bosses, after all, are held responsible by their own bosses for the performance of their subordinates. They must be able to say: "I know what Anne [or John] is trying to do." -- Managing for the Future: The 1990's and Beyond (1992)
  • Never underrate the boss! The boss may look illiterate. He may look stupid. But there is no risk at all in overrating a boss. If you underrate him he will bitterly resent it or impute to you the deficiency in brains and knowledge you imputed to him. -- Managing for the Future: The 1990's and Beyond (1992)
  • Once a year ask the boss, "What do I or my people do that helps you to do your job?" and "What do I or my people do that hampers you?" -- Managing for the Future: The 1990's and Beyond (1992)
  • One of the great movements in my lifetime among educated people is the need to commit themselves to action. Most people are not satisfied with giving money; we also feel we need to work. That is why there is an enormous surge in the number of unpaid staff, volunteers. The needs are not going to go away. Business is not going to take up the slack, and government cannot. -- "New Priorities" Dancing Toward The Future, Context Institute, (1992)
  • Ideas are somewhat like babies--they are born small, immature, and shapeless. They are promise rather than fulfillment. In the innovative company executives do not say, "This is a damn-fool idea." Instead they ask, "What would be needed to make this embryonic, half-baked, foolish idea into something that makes sense, that is an opportunity for us?" -- The Frontiers of Management (1986)
  • All economic activity is by definition "high risk." And defending yesterday--that is, not innovating--is far more risky than making tomorrow. -- Innovations and Entrepreneurship (1985)
  • If "socialism" is defined as "ownership of the means of production"--and this is both the orthodox and the only rigorous definition--then the United States is the first truly Socialist country. -- The Pension Fund Revolution (1976)
  • [human types needed for top management tasks] ...the "thought man" ...the "action man" ...the "people man" ...the "front man" ...Yet those four temperaments are almost never found in one person. ...The one-man top management job is a major reason why business fail to grow. -- Management: Tasks Responsibilities Practices (1974)
  • An employer has no business with a man's personality. Employment is a specific contract calling for a specific performance... Any attempt to go beyond that is usurpation. It is immoral as well as an illegal intrusion of privacy. It is abuse of power. An employee owes no "loyalty," he owes no "love" and no "attitudes"--he owes performance and nothing else. -- Management: Tasks Responsibilities Practices (1974)
  • Morale in an organization does not mean that "people get along together"; the test is performance not conformance. -- The Effective Executive (1966)
  • Large organizations cannot be versatile. A large organization is effective through its mass rather than through its agility. Fleas can jump many times their own height, but not an elephant. -- The Age of Discontinuity (1969)
  • The world economy is not yet a community--not even an economic community...Yet the existence of the "global shopping center" is a fact that cannot be undone. The vision of an economy for all will not be forgotten again. -- The Age of Discontinuity (1969)
  • The individual needs the return to spiritual values, for he can survive in the present human situation only by reaffirming that man is not just a biological and psychological being but also a spiritual being, that is creature, and existing for the purposes of his Creator and subject to Him -- Landmarks of Tomorrow: A Report on the New 'Post-Modern' World (1959)
  • In the political, the social, the economic, even the cultural sphere, the revolutions of our time have been revolutions "against" rather than revolutions "for"... On the whole throughout this period the man--or party--that stood for doing the positive has usually cut a pathetic figure; well meaning but ineffectual, civilized but unrealistic, he was suspect alike to [by both] the ultras of destruction and the ultras of preservation and restoration. -- Landmarks of Tomorrow: A Report on the New 'Post-Modern' World (1959)
  • The arts alone give direct access to experience. To eliminate them from education--or worse, to tolerate them as cultural ornaments--is antieducational obscurantism. It is foisted on us by the pedants and snobs of Hellenistic Greece who considered artistic performance fit only for slaves... -- Landmarks of Tomorrow: A Report on the New 'Post-Modern' World (1959)
  • In book subjects a student can only do a student's work. All that can be measured is how well he learns, rather than how well he performs. All he can show is promise. -- Landmarks of Tomorrow: A Report on the New 'Post-Modern' World (1959)
  • We no longer even understand the question whether change is by itself good or bad, ...We start out with the axiom that it is the norm. We do not see change as altering the order... We see change as being order itself--indeed the only order we can comprehend today is a dynamic, a moving, a changing one. -- Landmarks of Tomorrow: A Report on the New 'Post-Modern' World (1959)
  • Tomorrow everybody--or practically everybody--will have had the education of the upper class of yesterday, and will expect equivalent opportunities. That is why we face the problem of making every kind of job meaningful and capable of satisfying every educated man. -- Landmarks of Tomorrow: A Report on the New 'Post-Modern' World (1959)
  • ...throughout the ages to be educated meant to be unproductive. ...our word "school"--and its equivalent in all European languages--derives from a Greek word meaning "leisure." -- Landmarks of Tomorrow: A Report on the New 'Post-Modern' World (1959)
  • Communism is evil. Its driving forces are the deadly sins of envy and hatred. -- Landmarks of Tomorrow: A Report on the New 'Post-Modern' World (1959)
  • Through systematic terror, through indoctrination, through systematic manipulation of stimulus, reward, and punishment, we can today break man and convert him into brute animal. ...The first step toward survival is therefore to make government legitimate again by attempting to deprive it of these powers... by international action to ban such powers. -- Landmarks of Tomorrow: A Report on the New 'Post-Modern' World (1959)
  • No matter how deeply wedded one may be to the free enterprise system (and I, for one, am wedded for life), one has to accept the need for positive government; one has to consider government action on a sizable scale as desirable rather than as a necessary evil. -- Landmarks of Tomorrow: A Report on the New 'Post-Modern' World (1959)
  • An organization is "sick" -- when promotion becomes more important to its people than accomplishment of their job -- when it is more concerned with avoiding mistakes than with taking risks -- and with counteracting the weaknesses of its members than with building on their strength -- and when good human relations become more important than performance and achievement. ...The moment people talk of "implementing" instead of "doing," and of "finalizing" instead of "finishing," the organization is already running a fever. Landmarks of Tomorrow: A Report on the New 'Post-Modern' World (1959)
  • A man should never be appointed into a managerial position if his vision focuses on people's weaknesses rather than on their strengths. -- The Practice of Management (1954)
  • The better a man is, the more mistakes will he make--for the more new things he will try. I would never promote a man into a top level job who had not made mistakes, and big ones at that. Otherwise he is sure to be mediocre. -- The Practice of Management (1954)
  • There is only one valid definition of a business purpose: to create a customer. -- The Practice of Management (1954)
  • It does not follow from the separation of planning and doing in the analysis of work that the planner and the doer should be two different people. It does not follow that the industrial world should be divided into two classes of people: a few who decide what is to be done, design the job, set the pace, rhythm and motions, and order others about; and the many who do what and as they are told. -- The Practice of Management (1954)
  • It does not matter whether the worker wants responsibility or not, ...The enterprise must demand it of him. -- The Practice of Management (1954)
  • --A manager sets objectives--A manager organizes--A manager motivates and communicates--A manager, by establishing yardsticks, measures--A manager develops people. The Practice of Management (1954)
  • The fundamental reality for every worker, from sweeper to executive vice-president, is the eight hours or so that he spends on the job. In our society of organizations, it is the job through which the great majority has access to achievement, to fulfillment, and to community. -- The Practice of Management (1954)
  • Capitalism is being attacked not because it is inefficient or misgoverned but because it is cynical. And indeed a society based on the assertion that private vices become public benefits cannot endure, no matter how impeccable its logic, no matter how great its benefits. -- The Practice of Management (1954)
  • Free enterprise cannot be justified as being good for business. It can be justified only as being good for society. The Practice of Management (1954)
  • For if this country... were to make its defense program a function of its domestic employment situation, it would become impossible to conduct a constructive and well-thought out foreign policy or to develop any lasting collaboration. Note: compare Dwight Eisenhower's January, 1961 Farewell Speech -- The New Society (1950)
  • That the government's power under the Taft-Hartley Act to stop a strike by injunction so clearly strengthens the hand of the employer--even though it is used only when a strike threatens the national health, welfare, or safety--is a grave blemish and explains much of union resistance to the Act. -- The New Society (1950)
  • We still think and talk of the basic problems of an industrial society as problems that can be solved by changing the system, that is the superstructure of political organization. Yet the real problems lie within the [industrial] enterprise. ...our representative institution... a mirror in which we look when we want to see ourselves. -- The New Society (1950)
  • The major incentive to productivity and efficiency are social and moral rather than financial. -- The New Society (1950)
  • What the worker needs is to see the plant as if he were a manager. Only thus can he see his part, from his part he can reach the whole. This "seeing" is not a matter of information, training courses, conducted plant tours, or similar devices. What is needed is the actual experience of the whole in and through the individual's work. -- The New Society (1950)
  • If war production should remain the only way out of a long-term depression, industrial society would be reduced to the choice between suicide through total war or suicide through total depression. Note: compare Dwight Eisenhower's January, 1961 Farewell Speech Concept of the Corporation (1945)
  • No society can function as a society, unless it gives the individual member social status and function, and unless the decisive social power is legitimate. -- The Future of Industrial Man (1942)
  • In the modern corporation the decisive power, that of the managers, is derived from no one but the managers themselves controlled by nobody and nothing and responsible to no one. It is in the most literal sense unfounded, unjustified, uncontrolled and irresponsible power. -- The Future of Industrial Man (1942)
  • Unless the power of the corporation can be organized on an accepted principle of legitimacy, it taken over by a Central government... -- The Future of Industrial Man (1942)
  • We have only one alternative: either to build a functioning industrial society or see freedom itself disappear in anarchy and tyranny. -- The Future of Industrial Man (1942)
  • Political freedom is neither easy nor automatic, neither pleasant nor secure. It is the responsibility of the individual for the decisions of society as if they were his own decisions--as in moral truth and accountability they are. -- The Future of Industrial Man (1942)
  • Unless we realize that the essence of Nazism is also an attempt to solve a universal problem of Western civilization--that of the industrial society--and that the basic principles on which the Nazis base this attempt are also in no way confined to Germany, we do not know what we fight for or what we fight against. ...The war is being fought for the structure of industrial society--its basic principles, its purposes, and its institutions. -- The Future of Industrial Man (1942)
  • This is a political book... It has a political purpose: to strengthen the will to maintain freedom against the threat of its abandonment in favor of totalitarianism. -- The End of Economic Man (1939)
  • With Christianity, freedom and equality became the two basic concepts of Europe; they are themselves Europe. -- The End of Economic Man (1939)
  • There is an unbroken chain of opposition to the introduction of economic freedom and to the capitalist autonomy of the economic sphere. ...In every case the opposition could only be overcome--peacefully or by force--because of the promise of capitalism to establish equality. ...That this promise was an illusion we all know. -- The End of Economic Man (1939)
  • Capitalism as a social order and as a creed is the expression of the belief in economic progress as leading toward the freedom and equality of the individual in a free and open society. Marxism expects this society to result from the abolition of private profit. Capitalism expects the free and equal society to result from the enthronement of private profit as supreme ruler of social behavior... -- The End of Economic Man (1939)
  • Fascism is the result of the collapse of Europe's spiritual and social order. ...catastrophes broke through the everyday routine which makes men accept existing forms, institutions and tenets as unalterable natural laws. They suddenly exposed the vacuum behind the facade of society. -- The End of Economic Man (1939)
  • [the masses] ...must turn their hopes toward a miracle. In the depths of their despair reason cannot be believed, truth must be false, and lies must be truth. "Higher bread prices," "lower bread prices," "unchanged bread prices" have all failed. The only hope lies in a kind of bread price which is none of these, which nobody has ever seen before, and which belies the evidence of one's reason. -- The End of Economic Man (1939)


  • Management is doing things right, Leadership is doing the right things!
  • Education can no longer be the sole property of the state.
  • When a subject becomes totally obsolete we make it a required course.
  • I had sat [in schools] long enough. I would be an adult among other adults--I had never liked being young, and contested the company of delayed adolescents as I thought most college students to be. I would earn a living and be financially independent. [recollections from age 17]
  • Legitimate is a power when it is justified by an ethical or metaphysical principle that has been accepted by a society.
  • The non-profits spend far less for results than governments spend for failure.
  • At least once every five years every form should be put on trial for its life.
  • If only for esthetic reasons, I am not overfond of the term "Bottom-Up Management."
  • [Management is] an integrating discipline of human values and conduct, of social order and intellectual inquiry, [a discipline that] feeds off economics, psychology, mathematics, political theory, history, and philosophy. In short, management is a liberal art...
  • There is only one point on which the economists and I are in agreement: I am NOT an economist.
  • Limiting access to opportunity to those with a diploma is a crass denial of all fundamental beliefs--beliefs, by the way, that have been amply validated by experience. ...[it] restricts, oppresses, and injures individual and society alike.
  • [after attending a John Maynard Keynes seminar, he] suddenly realized that Keynes and all the brilliant economics students in the room were interested in the behavior of commodities while I was interested in the behavior of people.
  • [about Keynesian government spending to relieve economic depressions] It was like a doctor telling you that you have an inoperable liver cancer, but it will be cured if you go to bed with a beautiful seventeen-year-old.
  • I am more an "insultant" than a consultant... I scold people for a fee.
  • The most important thing in communication is to hear what isn't being said.
  • What is the point of spending such huge sums to bring a 200-lb.-body downtown when all you want of it is its eight-and-a-half pound brain?


  • The World According to Peter Drucker Jack Beatty, The Free Press, 1998

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