(Reprinted with permission from the Washington Post, written by Tim Smart.)

Peter Drucker is often referred to as the man who invented modern management, or at least the person who made the study of management a respected academic discipline.

Drucker has written widely on business, economics, and social history, and anyone wanting to know what the Viennese-born writer thinks only has to read one of his many books. What Jack Beatty does in The World According to Peter Drucker is introduce us to the personality of Drucker, one that Beatty does a good job of piercing with the help of Drucker himself.

A product of Europe’s turn-of-the-century turmoil, Drucker escaped Austria in the period following the First World War, settling first in London and then emigrating to America. Witnessing the development of fascism and other totalitarian regimes in his backyard, he nonetheless grew up a fan of systemized organizations—but ones in which freedom prevailed.

Beatty paints Drucker as an inquisitive character who learned as a child to listen to the wise dinner-table talk that surrounded him. His life is seen not so much as a study of one subject, management, but more a study of all subjects in which management is the organizing template. That might explain why his advice to managers often seems both so simple—yet so right.

Drucker has lived long enough now to witness the huge wave of downsizing that characterizes the present decade in business. His idea that business organizations could provide people with a sense of community may be pass? in an age where loyalty seems an outdated concept.

Still, there are rumblings that the middle managers recently written off as irrelevant may, in fact, be enjoying something of a late-century renaissance. If so, this could be a timely book about a man who remains a larger-than-life figure in the corporate world.

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