The Most Interesting (Business) Man in the World

Mar 7, 2016 by

by Hunter Baker –

A number of readers of this essay will be familiar with the beer company commercials built around “The Most Interesting Man in the World.” This man, a virile and hirsute senior citizen, has moved through his century with peerless confidence and style. When I think of my own candidate for the most interesting man, I find that Peter Drucker (1909–2005) comes to mind.

Drucker is best known to the world as the author of massive bestsellers in the category of business management. Before there was Jim Collins or Tom Peters, there was Peter Drucker. He was born a subject of the Austrian emperor and worked as an economist and a journalist before ultimately becoming a professor in the United States. While I think of him as “the most interesting man,” he was more humble about himself. His autobiography is titled Adventures of a Bystander. The book is mostly a collection of tales about people Drucker knew rather than a chronology of his own life. For instance, it tells of an odd man (one of Drucker’s fellow students) who would become the teacher of Henry Kissinger, Alfred Sloan (the man who made General Motors a giant success), Henry Luce (the founder of Time), and many other interesting figures.

Perhaps the story I remember best from the book is the one about an investment firm with which Drucker was associated. This old European firm actually had a courtesan; her services came as part of a specific position on the firm’s organizational chart. Drucker describes the crisis that occurred when a happily married young man was appointed to the job to which the courtesan was attached. I’ll leave it to readers to obtain the book and find out more. Less scandalous, but also interesting and amusing, is the tale he tells of a partner at the same firm who apparently did nothing all day but trade shares of the Chrysler Corporation. He was quite successful at it, yet he had no idea what kind of business Chrysler was. He thought it might be a railroad company.

Not Just a Business Thinker

Like many, I discovered Drucker through his extensive writings in the discipline of management. But as I read his books, I got little hints that he might be something more than a gifted writer of bestselling business books. Though some credit him with the founding of management as an academic field, and most associate him with such books as The Effective Executive (1967) and Management: Tasks, Responsibilities, and Practices (1973), I noticed that his earlier works, from the 1940s and 1950s, had more expansive titles such as The End of Economic Man and The New Society. I also learned that his academic training was not in management but in law; he had obtained his European doctorate in international law. I began to see Drucker as a social and political thinker, as well as an astute business mind. This is, after all, the man who viewed management primarily as a liberal art.

Since making that realization, I have studied his earlier books. Drucker thought a lot about such things as totalitarianism, decentralization, limited government, an American type of conservatism that he thought had special characteristics, social harmony, the impact of mass production on human beings, and other topics. One subject that preoccupied him in those earlier decades was the Christian faith. In an attempt to draw more attention to a somewhat forgotten aspect of the man and his work, I will, in what follows, identify and discuss some of Drucker’s key themes regarding the Christian faith in relation to society and government.

How Totalitarianism Was Able to Rise

The End of the Economic ManDrucker’s first book, The End of Economic Man (1939), contains some of his most profound hopes and thoughts regarding Christianity. The book is about the phenomenon of totalitarianism and how it achieved so much traction with people in the forms of fascism and communism. It is not surprising that a man born into the constitutional monarchy of the Austro-Hungarian empire and who saw his country annexed to Hitler’s Germany while he was still young would find the problem of totalitarianism to be urgent. In the late 1930s, he was living close to the crisis both chronologically and geographically. Indeed, the Nazi regime ordered that a pamphlet he had written be banned and destroyed.

Source: The Most Interesting (Business) Man in the World – The Imaginative Conservative

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