Managerial harmony: The confucian ethics of Peter F. Drucker [Book Review]

Journal of Business Ethics 51 (2):199-210 (2004)
Abstract
“Confucianism⋯ is a universal ethic in which the rules and imperatives of behavior hold for all individuals.” (Peter F. Drucker, Forbes, 1981). Peter Drucker is credited as the founder of modern American management. In his distinguished career he has written widely and authoritatively on the subject and to a large extent his work possesses a distinctive ethical tone. This paper will argue that Confucian ethics underlie much of Drucker's writing. Both Drucker and Confucius view power as the central ethical issue in human relations. They emphasize authority, leadership, legitimacy, hierarchy, interdependence and individual ethical responsibility in their analysis of human affairs. Drucker views the development of large-scale formal organizations and the concomitant rise of the managerial class as the most significant developments of the 20th century, which makes the management of interdependent roles and relationships a central ethical challenge. Confucius, and the early Confucians, understood human relationships as based upon hierarchy, interdependence and personal ethics. The paper will analyze Drucker's work in light of the early Confucian Classics (The Analects, The Mencius, The Great Learning and The Doctrine of the Mean). Drucker, himself, considers The End of Economic Man (1939), The Future of Industrial Man (1942), Concept of the Corporation (1983), and The Essential Drucker (2001) as his most important and influential works. The paper will analyze these along with other works by Drucker as appropriate.
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