brainroads-toward-tomorrows mental patterns


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The End of Economic Man:

The Origins of Totalitarianism



by Peter Drucker (a political / social ecologist)

Amazon link: The End of Economic Man: The Origins of Totalitarianism

Google books link




#Note the number of books about Drucker ↓


Inside Drucker's Brain World According to Drucker

My life as a knowledge worker

Drucker: a political or social ecologist ↑ ↓


“I am not a ‘theoretician’;

through my consulting practice

I am in daily touch with

the concrete opportunities and problems

of a fairly large number of institutions,

foremost among them businesses

but also hospitals, government agencies

and public-service institutions

such as museums and universities.


And I am working with such institutions

on several continents:

North America, including Canada and Mexico;

Latin America; Europe;

Japan and South East Asia.


Still, a consultant is at one remove

from the day-today practice —

that is both his strength

and his weakness.

And so my viewpoint

tends more to be that of an outsider.”

broad worldview ↑ ↓


Most mistakes in thinking ↑seeing only part of the picture


#pdw larger ↑ ::: Books by Peter Drucker ::: Rick Warren + Drucker

Peter Drucker's work

Books by Bob Buford and Walter Wriston

Global Peter Drucker Forum ::: Charles Handy — Starting small fires

Post-capitalist executive ↑ T. George Harris


harvest and implement

Learning to Learn (ecological awareness ::: operacy)

The MEMO “they” don’t want you to SEE




What do YOU want to be remembered for?




Review by Winston Churchill


Introduction to the Transaction Edition



The Anti-Fascist Illusion

The Despair of the Masses

The Return of the Demons

The Failure of the Christian Churches

The Totalitarian Miracle

Fascist Noneconomic Society

Miracle or Mirage?

The Future: East Against West?





Introduction To The Transaction Edition


The End of Economic Man was my first book, and at the time of its publication I was still an unknown young man.

Yet the book received tremendous attention when it came out in the spring of 1939, and was an instant success.

It was even more successful in Britain than in the United States.

Winston Churchill, then still out of office, wrote the first review, and a glowing one.

When, a year later, after Dunkirk and the fall of France, he became prime minister he gave the order to include The End of Economic Man in the book kit issued to every graduate of a British Officers’ Candidate School.

(It was, appropriately enough, packaged together with Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland by somebody in the War Department with a sense of humor.)

Although this book was published more than fifty years ago, it was actually written even earlier.

It was begun in 1933, a few weeks after Hitler had come to power.

An early excerpt — the discussion of the role of anti-Semitism in the Nazi demonology and the reasons for its appeal — was published as a pamphlet by an Austrian Catholic and anti-Nazi publisher in 1935 or 1936.

And it was finished between April 1937, when first arrived in the United States from England, and the end of that year.

It was the first book to try to explain the origins of totalitarianism — its subtitle.

It has kept on selling.

Indeed it has been reissued several times before this republication as a Transaction book, the last time in 1969 (the preface to that reissue is included in this volume).

And lately the book has again gotten a fair amount of scholarly attention.


But for a long time during the nineteen-sixties — and indeed, well into the nineteen-seventies — the book was pointedly ignored by the scholarly community.

One reason: it was not “politically correct” to use current jargon.

It fitted neither of the two politically acceptable theses of the postwar period: the thesis that Nazism was a “German” phenomena to be explained by German history, German character, German specifics of one kind or another or the Marxist thesis of Nazism as the “last gasp of dying capitalism.”

This book, instead, treated Nazism — and totalitarianism altogether — as a European disease, with Nazi Germany the most extreme, most pathological manifestation and with Stalinism being neither much different nor much better.

Anti-Semitism, for instance, appeared first as persecution and popular demagoguery in France, rather than in Germany, in the Dreyfus Affair of the eighteen-nineties.

And it was the failure of Marxism — rather than that of capitalism — as a creed and as a savior, The End of Economic Man asserted, that led to the “despair of the masses” and made them easy prey to totalitarian demagoguery and demonology.


But there was a second reason why the book did not fit into the scholarly climate of the postwar period.

It is the more important one, simply because the climate still persists.

This book treats a major social phenomenon as a social phenomenon.

This is still largely considered heresy (except by such fellow-heretics as the publishers of Transaction books and Society magazine).

Major social phenomena are treated either as political and economic history, that is, in terms of battles, armies, treaties, politicians, elections, national-income statistics, and so on.

(A good example for Germany and Nazism are the excellent books of the Stanford historian Gordon Craig, for example, his 1978 book Germany: 1866-1945.)

Such developments are also explained in terms of “isms,” that is, in terms of all-embracing philosophies.

The prototype and exemplar of this approach for our theme is the 1951 book by Hannah Arendt The Origins of Totalitarianism which blames Hitler and Nazism on the systematic German philosophers of the early nineteenth century: Fichte, Schelling, or Hegel.

No matter how valid either approach, they are not adequate by themselves.

The stool needs a third leg.

Social phenomena need social analysis, an analysis of the strains, stresses, trends, shifts, and upheavals in society.

This, I would maintain, is what sociology was meant to do, was indeed invented for in the early years of the last century.

It is what the great men of sociology, a Max Weber (1864-1920) or a Vilfredo Pareto (1864-1923), did.

It is what Joseph Schumpeter (1883-1950) did when he identified the “innovator” as the social force that turns economies upside down; the innovator does not behave economically, does not try to optimize, is not motivated by economic rationale — he is a social phenomenon.

It is what this book tries to do.


“Society” is vague and impossible to define, argue my historian friends, my economist friends, my philosopher friends.

They are absolutely right.

But equally resistant to definition are history, economics, philosophy, nation, science, and poetry — indeed everything worthwhile thinking, talking, and writing about.

Yet all of us know what to do with these terms — “plus or minus 80%” as the statisticians would say — that is, adequate for operational purposes (despite everything the linguistic logicians say to the contrary).

The End of Economic Man treats society as the environment of that very peculiar critter, the human being.

History treats what happens on the surface, so to speak.

“Isms” — that is philosophical systems — may be called the atmosphere.

But society is the “ecology.”

This book does not attempt to define “society.”

It tries to understand it.

Whether it succeeds in this attempt readers must decide for themselves.

But this book was the first attempt to understand the major social phenomenon of the first half of this century, that is, the rise of totalitarianism as a social event.

It is still, half a century later, the only such attempt.

This alone, hope, makes it worthwhile reading.

Peter F. Drucker 

Claremont, California

October 1994




Preface To The 1969 Edition

When this book first came out, in 1939 — thirty long years ago — it was shockingly unconventional and heretical.

It was, of course, by no means alone in its uncompromising rejection of the totalitarian creeds, or even in its firm conviction that Nazism was pure evil sans qualification or extenuation.

But the other — and there were hundreds of them — all explained away Hitler in those years before World War Il.

They either came up with some pseudo-history of Nazism as a “manifestation of German national character,” or they depicted Nazism (and Fascism) as the “dying gasp of capitalism,” with Marxist socialism as the coming savior.

In this book, however, the “national-character” explanation is dismissed as intellectually shoddy; national character or national history may explain how a people does things, but not what things it does.

This book rather diagnosed Nazism — and Fascism — as a pervasive sickness of the European body politic.

And instead of proclaiming Marxism as the coming savior, I asserted that the total failure of Marxism had been a main reason for the flight of Europe’s masses into the fervency of totalitarian despair.

These views, and the conclusions to which they led, were so heretical in the nineteen-thirties that myself hesitated a long time before publishing them.

The first draft of this book containing its main theses was actually done when Hitler was coming to power in 1933; I was, however, so perturbed by my own findings, inescapable though they seemed, that I decided to hold the manuscript until I could test its conclusions against actual events.

But even after my predictions had been proven correct by the developments of the ‘thirties, no publisher was willing for a long time to bring out the book.

It was far too “extreme” in its conclusions: 

that Hitler’s anti-Semitism would be propelled by its inner logic towards the “ultimate solution” of killing all Jews; 

that the huge armies of Western Europe would not offer effective resistance to the Germans; 

or that Stalin would end up signing a pact with Hitler.

Only after Munich, in the fall of 1938, did the late Richard J. Walsh, Sr., then head of John Day, the publishers, accept this book.

He tried even then to make me tone down these “extreme” conclusions and imply them rather than come straight out with them.

Yet Richard Walsh, who was both a publisher and a leading liberal journalist of the times, was singularly well-informed.

He was also a courageous man who took quite a risk in publishing this book, and was, indeed, sharply attacked by “liberal” reviewers, most of whom in those days deluded themselves with dreams of Marxist utopia.

Six months after this book had first come out, in the spring of 1939, Stalin did, however, (as I had predicted) ally himself with Hitler.

Another twelve or eighteen months later, in the bleak winter of 1940-41, after Dunkirk and the Fall of France, the British selected The End of Economic Man as the one political book to distribute to the young men preparing to be officers of the first nation that chose to fight the Nazi evil.

The word “alienation” was not in the political vocabulary of the nineteen-thirties and cannot be found in the pages of The End of Economic Man.

Still, that Western man had become alienated from Western society and Western political creeds is a central thesis of this book.

In some ways, The End of Economic Man anticipated by more than a decade the existentialism that came to dominate the European political mood in the late nineteen-forties and early nineteen-fifties.

Two key chapters of the book are respectively entitled, “The Despair of the Masses,” and “The Return of Demons,” terms that, though quite familiar today, were rudely foreign to the political rhetoric of the ‘thirties or indeed of any earlier period since the French Revolution.

The End of Economic Man was also, as far as I know, the first political book which treated Kierkegaard as a modern thinker relevant to modern politics.*

*Altogether he was so unknown then that the publisher’s copy editor had trouble verifying the spelling of his name.

Yet, in sharp contrast to the massive literature on existentialism and alienation since World War lI The End of Economic Man is a social and political rather than a philosophical, let alone a theological, book.

Its first sentence reads: “This is a political book.”

To be sure, it considers doctrines, philosophies, political creeds.

But it treats them as data in a concrete analysis of political dynamics.

Its theme is the rise of a power rather than the rise of a belief.

It is not concerned much with the nature of man and indeed not even with the nature of society.

It treats one specific historical event: the breakdown of the social and political structure of Europe which culminated in the rise of Nazi totalitarianism to mastery over Europe.

Politics, society, economics, rather than spiritual agonies, form the plot of this book.

Yet, unlike every other book of this period, The End of Economic Man explained the tragedy of Europe as the result of a loss of political faith, as a result of the political alienation of the European masses.

In particular, it traces the headlong rush into totalitarian despair to the disillusionment with the political creeds that had dominated the “Modern Age” which had begun three hundred years earlier.

The last of these creeds had been Marxism.

And the final, the ultimate, cause of the rise of totalitarianism was the total failure of Marxism to make sense out of political reality and social experience.

As a result, the European masses were overwhelmed by a “return of the demons.”

Central to the Modern Age had been the belief that society could be made rational, could be ordered, controlled, understood.

With the collapse of Marxism as a secular creed, society became again irrational, threatening, incomprehensible, menaced by sinister powers against which the individual had no defense.

Unemployment and war were the specific “demons” which obsessed the society of the inter-war years.

The secular creeds of Liberal Europe — and Marxism was their logical and ultimate formulation and their dead end — could neither banish nor control these forces.

Nor could any existing economic or political theory explain them.

Though human and social in origin and within society, they proved as irrational, as unmanageable, as senseless and capricious as had been the demonic forces of a hostile nature before which earlier men had groveled in impotent despair.

Yet twentieth-century men could not return to the rationality of the religious faiths that had given spiritual certainty to their forebears.

The End of Economic Man was perhaps least fashionable for its time in its respect for religion and in the attention it paid to the Christian churches.

Insofar as contemporary political analysis paid attention at all, it considered religion an outmoded relic and the churches ineffectual reactionaries.

Stalin’s famous outburst: “How many divisions has the Pope?”, shocked only the way a four-letter word shocks in the Victorian drawing room; it said bluntly what most people knew very well but covered up by polite circumlocution.

My book, however, has a chapter, “The Failure of the Christian Churches,” which argues that the churches could have been expected to succeed, could have been expected to provide the new foundation.

In this chapter, the Christian churches are seen as the one potential counterforce and the one available political sanctuary.

The contemporaries, thirty years ago, still children of eighteenth-century Enlightenment and nineteenth-century Anti-Clericalism, tended to ignore the Christian dissenters — from Kierkegaard to the worker-priests of Franceas isolated romantics, hopelessly out of touch with reality.

The End of Economic Man was, to my knowledge, the first book that perceived them the way we tend to perceive them now, that is, as hardheaded realists addressing themselves to the true problems of modern society.

This enabled the book to foreshadow both the emergence of Christian-Democratic parties that have been so prominent a feature of postwar Europe, and the “aggiornamento” of the Catholic Church under Pope John.

But The End of Economic Man also reached the conclusion that the churches could not, after all, furnish the basis for European society and European politics.

They had to fail, though not for the reasons for which the contemporaries tended to ignore them.

Religion could indeed offer an answer to the despair of the individual and to his existential agony.

But it could not offer an answer to the despair of the masses.

I am afraid that this conclusion still holds today.

Western Man — indeed today Man altogether — is not ready to renounce this world.

Indeed he still looks for secular salvation, if he expects salvation at all.

And churches, especially Christian churches, can (and should) preach a “social gospel.”

But they cannot (and should not) substitute politics for Grace, and social science for Redemption.

Religion, the critic of any society, cannot accept any society or even any social program, without abandoning its true Kingdom, that of a Soul alone with its God.

Therein lies both the strength of the churches as the conscience of society and their incurable weakness as political and social forces in society.

There was much talk of “revolution” in those years.

What was meant by the term was, however, a game of musical chairs, that is, the replacement of the “capitalist bosses” by the Marxist “Dictatorship of the Proletariat.”

This book can claim to have been the first to realize that this would simply be exchanging King Stork for King Log, and that indeed the new rulers would be forced to freeze the existing patterns of power and institutions.

This is commonplace today after Orwell’s 1984, Milovan Djilas’ The New Class, or the Russian invasion of Czechoslovakia in the fall of 1968.

But it was quite new thirty years ago when even the “anti-Communists” (indeed particularly the “anti-Communists”) were absolutely sure that communism would indeed revolutionize society rather than replace one rulership group by another, an infinitely more rigid and autocratic one.

One result of my findings that what was called “revolution” then — and is, of course, still called “revolution” in Moscow today — was a power grab and very little else, was the conclusion that the specific social and economic institutions of the system of production and distribution, that was known as “capitalism,” would survive and would, in all likelihood, prove itself capable of economic performance.

Marxism, however, because of its millennial nature, I concluded, could not survive the first doubt in its infallibility.

When I reached this conclusion thirty years ago, nothing was more “obvious” to anyone than that the traditional economy could not possibly outlast war.

The actual experience we have had since would have been unimaginable then: 

the resurgence of an economically “affluent” Europe and of an expanding world economy based on economic entrepreneurship organized in privately owned and privately managed world-wide corporations.

But while realized that what to the contemporaries appeared as “inevitable revolution” was not likely to happen, I also realized that the new totalitarianisms, especially Nazism in Germany, were indeed a genuine revolution, aiming at the overthrow of something much more fundamental than economic organization: values, beliefs, and basic morality.

It was a revolution which replaced hope by despair, reason by magic, and belief by the frenzied, bloodthirsty violence of the terror-stricken.

The End of Economic Man was meant to be a concrete social and political analysis of a profound crisis.

It was not conceived as “history,” and is not written as such.

But it also does not “report” events.

It tries to understand them.

It might, therefore, be read today as a portrait, perhaps a self-portrait, of the period and as a perception of those nightmare years between the two world wars.

What comes through perhaps most strongly are the pervasive realities of these years which to us today, thirty years later, are almost inconceivable.

The most surprising of these realities of 1939 to the reader of 1969 will probably be that Europe was then the stage of world affairs.

This book was written by a man living in the United States, at home there, and deeply enmeshed in its politics and economics.

Indeed by the time this book came out, I was actually teaching American History and American Economics.

I had also, by that time, begun to develop a deep interest in Asia — in Japan, above all, but also in India.

(Indeed this interest in Asia was indirectly responsible for the publication of this book in 1939.

For Richard Walsh, Sr., was not only the head of the John Day Company and, as such, a publisher, but he was also the editor of Asia magazine; and it was in the latter capacity that first got to know him.)

And yet the book takes for granted that what happens in Europe is what matters and decides.

Franklin D. Roosevelt’s America is, of course, mentioned many times in The End of Economic Man.

And it is clear, right from the beginning, that its author hoped that America would prove immune to the infection that was destroying Europe and would overcome it in her own system and society.

But otherwise the United States is clearly relegated to the rank of spectator.

Similarly, colonial problems are mentioned only to be pushed aside.

The fate of the world was at stake in Europe and would be decided there.

Today such a view would be almost unthinkable.

It is precisely because General de Gaulle believed in such a Europe centered world that he smelled so strongly of mothballs, even to his most fervent disciples.

And yet even General de Gaulle did not assume that Europe today is the center.

He only believed that it should be the center and that no other world center is right or even possible.

Thirty years ago, however, Europe was indeed the center.

It was not totally insane for Hitler to believe that he could dominate the world by making himself master of Europe.

Actually, Hitler was more realistic than any of the other European politicians of his time, Stalin included.

He realized that his was the last opportunity for a European world empire and that the center of world politics was about to shift away from Europe.

The others, including the non-Europeans, all shared de Gaulle’s belief that Europe’s dominance and centricity were ordained and part of the eternal order.

The second feature of the time portrayed in this book — and hard to imagine today — is the star role of Marxism in the constellation of movements, philosophies and emotions.

I myself have never been attracted to any form of Marxism.

And this book proclaimed — and tried to prove — that Marxism had failed and had indeed lost all relevance for the industrially developed countries.

Yet Marxism — to paraphrase the title of a book that appeared almost twenty years after The End of Economic Man — was “the God that failed.”

The creative era of Marxism had come to an end with World War I. 

In the decades before it had been the inspiration to all creative thinking in politics, society, and economics on the European scene.

Even the anti-Marxists of those days had to define themselves in terms of their position towards Marx; and “non-Marxists” did not exist in Europe during the decades before World War I. 

After the failure of the Socialist International to avert or to settle World War I, followed by the failure of communism to come to power in any single developed European country despite the collapse and chaos which 1918 left behind on the Continent among victors and vanquished alike, Marxism rapidly lost its vigor and became a ritualized but meaningless chant.

The intellectual elite which, before 1914, had been mesmerized by Marxism, deserted it almost entirely after 1918 and flocked to new leaders and to new thoughts.

Max Weber in Germany, the Neo-Thomists in France, or Freud in Austria — to mention only the most prominent of the new intellectual lights — were not “anti-Marxist.”

They simply considered Marx irrelevant, by and large.

And Marxism itself, which had thrown up a galaxy of thinkers and of political leaders before 1914, did not after World War I produce one single figure, even of the second rank.

But while Marxism rapidly lost credence and creativity for the intellectual elite, it became popularized.

The vocabulary everywhere became Marxist, very much the way the American popular vocabulary suddenly became psychoanalytical in the mid-fifties.

Marxism, no longer the solid gold of the “highbrows,” became the small change of the “middlebrows.”

Marxism itself could no longer organize effectively for gaining power or even for gaining adherents, whether by the ballot box or by revolution.

But demagogues could, with impunity, use Marxist rhetoric and could, as Mussolini did, cover up their intellectual nakedness by an “anti-Marxism” itself composed posed of Marxist tatters.

This happened even in the United States.

During its creative period, Marxism had not had any impact on America.

There is not one American thinker or American politician, not even of the second rank, who was influenced by Marxism to the slightest degree.

But in its decay in the late ‘thirties and early ‘forties, Marxism suddenly began to supply the rhetoric of the pseudo-intellectuals and to serve them, for a decade, as a substitute for thinking and analysis.

In other words, Marxism, “the God that failed,” dominated the European political scene more pervasively after it had become a corpse than it had done in its prime as a secular religion.

And this comes out clearly in The End of Economic Man, where the failure of Marxism rather than its threat or its promise is shown to be the central factor in the rise of totalitarianism and a main reason of the flight of the masses into totalitarian despair.

The last reality of the ‘thirties which The End of Economic Man clearly conveys is the total absence of leadership.

The political stage was full of characters.

Never before, it seems, had there been so many politicians, working so frenziedly.

Quite a few of these politicians were decent men, some even very able ones.

But excepting the twin Princes of Darkness, Hitler and Stalin, they were all pathetically small men; even mediocrities were conspicuous by their absence.

The very villains, a Papen, a Laval, a Quisling, were pygmies whose foul treason was largely boneheaded miscalculation.

“But,” today’s reader will protest, “there was Churchill.”

To be sure, Churchill’s emergence as the leader in Europe’s fight against the evil forces of totalitarianism, was the crucial event.

It was, to use a Churchillian phrase, “the hinge of fate.”

Today’s reader is indeed likely to underrate Churchill’s importance.

Until Churchill took over as leader of free peoples everywhere, after Dunkirk and the Fall of France, Hitler had moved with apparent infallibility.

After Churchill, Hitler was “off” for good, never regaining his sense of timing or his uncanny ability to anticipate every opponent’s slightest move.

The shrewd calculator of the ‘thirties became the wild, uncontrolled plunger of the ‘forties.

It is hard to realize today, thirty years after the event, that without Churchill the United States might well have resigned itself to Nazi domination of Europe and of the still largely intact colonial empires of Europe.

Indeed even Russia might well not have resisted the Nazi invaders had not Churchill, a year earlier, broken the Nazi spell.

What Churchill gave was precisely what Europe needed: moral authority, belief in values, and faith in the rightness of rational action.

But this is hindsight.

Churchill appears in The End of Economic Man and is treated with great respect.

Indeed, reading now what then wrote, I suspect that I secretly hoped that Winston Churchill would indeed emerge into leadership.

I also never fell for the ersatz leaders such as Marshal Pétain to whom a good many well-informed contemporaries — a good many members of Roosevelt’s entourage in Washington, for instance — looked for deliverance.

Yet, in 1939, Churchill was a might-have-been: 

a powerless old man rapidly approaching 70; 

a Cassandra who bored his listeners in spite (or perhaps because) of his passioned rhetoric; 

a two-time loser who, however magnificent in opposition, had proven himself inadequate to the demands of office.

I know that it is hard to believe today that even in 1940 Churchill was by no means the inevitable successor when the “Men of Munich” were swept out of office by the Fall of France and the retreat at Dunkirk.

But we do know now that several other men were considered as prime ministers and that one or two of them actually had the “inside track” and almost got the appointment.

Churchill’s emergence in 1940, more than a year after this book was first published, was the reassertion of the basic moral and political values for which The End of Economic Man had prayed and hoped.

But all one could do in 1939 was pray and hope.

The reality was the absence of leadership, the absence of affirmation, the absence of men of values and principle.

Hannah Arendt published in 1951 a book called The Origins of Totalitarianism.

It is a distinguished work on the history of ideas, and a moving one.

But it is remarkably apolitical, indeed anti-political, dealing almost exclusively with the decay and disintegration of the metaphysical systems of German classical philosophy.

Dr. Arendt identifies as one of the central weaknesses of the European, and especially the German intellectual, his disdain for the reality of society and government and his disinterest in power and the political process.

But she fully shares the tendency she herself deplores.

Yet hers is the only book, other than The End of Economic Man, to concern itself at all with the question: “what caused totalitarianism and what made it prevail?”

Not that we lack books on the Europe of the ‘twenties, the ‘thirties, or the ‘forties.

No other period in history has called forth the flood of printed paper — 

memoirs and biographies; 

detailed monographs on election campaigns and on the myriad international conferences of the period; 

books on campaigns, commanders, theaters of war and battles.

There are more than one hundred books alone on German-Russian relations in the two years between the signing of the alliance between the two countries and Hitler’s invasion of Russia in June, 1941.

But there has not been one single attempt (except for The End of Economic Man) to explain the rise of totalitarianism.

There has been not one attempt to explain totalitarianism as a political and social phenomenon or to analyze the dynamics of its rise to political and military dominance.

Yet surely, no other event of recent Western history calls out more for analysis and explanation than the sudden emergence of a political creed that denies every single political value of the European tradition, and of a political system that, for the first time, at least in the West, totally denies the individual altogether.

What I have called here the “realities” of the ‘thirties — 

the assumption of a Europe-centered world; 

the pervasiveness of a rotting Marxism; 

and the absence of leadership of even medium competency 

— may in large part account for this signal silence.

We have been, until now, far too close in time to these years to treat them as “history” and with detachment.

After all, we, the generation over thirty today — and particularly those over fifty who are still occupying the command positions in politics, society, and economics — were actors or at least victims.

All our lives have been molded by these years.

Instead of asking, 

“what did really happen?”

we still ask, 

“how could we have prevented it from happening?”

We are still trying to undo the past 

rather than to explain it.

Yet we are also so far removed in experience from these that we cannot imagine their “realities.”

They do not make sense to us.

They cannot fit in with the way we now see the world, with what we now take for granted, with what we now know.

These years are, therefore, to us like a nightmare the morning after.

We still suffer from it, may indeed never be able to shake it off.

But we no longer suffer with it.

It has rather become incomprehensible to us how we could ever have succumbed.

And this inhibits understanding, makes it even appear silly to try to gain understanding.

For how can one explain or understand the totally meaningless?

Today, however, the generation for whom the interwar period, and especially the ‘thirties, are still “contemporary,” the generation that lives in the morning after the nightmare, is rapidly moving out.

To anyone now thirty or under, this period is already impersonal, that is, “history.”

To them, therefore, the question how to explain the period is a meaningful, an accessible, perhaps even an important question.

To them, the attempt made in The End of Economic Man might, therefore, make sense again.

Another reason why there has been no attempt to understand and explain the totalitarianism of the ‘thirties, since The End of Economic Man first appeared, is probably that the attempt seemed unnecessary.

We thought we were finished and done with this particular disease.

This belief was not only common in the West and applied to Hitler and his Nazis.

In Russia too most people are apparently convinced that “the Stalin years can never come back again.”

There are, God knows, enough dangers and horrors in the nineteen-sixties.

But the totalitarianisms of a Hitler and of a Stalin, those, it seemed to us, were surely not among them.

And what point is there in puzzling over something that will never come back?

But can we still be sure?

Or are there not signs around us that totalitarianism may re-infest us, may indeed overwhelm us again?

The problems of our times are very different from those of the ‘twenties and ‘thirties, and so are our realities.

But some of our reactions to these problems are ominously reminiscent of the “despair of the masses” that plunged Europe into Hitler’s totalitarianism and into World War Il.

In their behavior some groups — the racists, white and black, but also some of the student “activists” on the so-called Left — are frighteningly reminiscent of Hitler’s stormtroopers — 

in their refusal to grant any rights, free speech for instance, to anyone else; 

in their use of character assassination; 

in their joy in destruction and vandalism.

In their rhetoric these groups are odiously similar to Hitler’ speeches and so is the dreary nihilism of their prophets of hatred from Mao to Marcuse.

Their direct ancestors are the German “Youth Movement” of the years between 1910 and 1930 — long hair, guitars, folk songs and all; and we might remember that the German Youth Movement started out as idealist “socialism” and ended up supplying Hitler with his most fanatical hard-core followers.

But above all, these groups on the “Right” as well as on the “Left,” like the totalitarians of a generation ago, believe 

that to say “no” is a positive policy; 

that to have compassion is to be weak; 

and that to manipulate idealism for the pursuit of power is to be “idealistic.”

They have not learned the one great lesson of our recent past: 

hatred is no answer to despair.

The End of Economic Man does not attempt to analyze the problems of today.

The problems with which it deals are clearly yesterday, clearly history, clearly thirty years ago.

But it does show that evasion of these problems through flight into righteous nihilism leads to the paranoia of tyranny.

The totalitarian response, this book shows, does not solve anything.

On the contrary, the problems are only made much worse, and the world made more nightmarish.

To be sure, this world of ours — like probably all societies before — is insane.

But paranoia is not the cure for an insane world.

On the contrary, what is needed to make life bearable in an insane environment is sanity.

Maturity, to use a much abused word, does not consist of trying to make the universe rational.

That attempt, the attempt of the nineteenth century, will probably always end in frustration.

Maturity does, however, not consist either of trying to outdo the irrationality of the universe.

It requires that we make our own behavior rational — and this alone gives us the chance at a decent, a meaningful, an achieving life and a decent society.

In The End of Economic Man did not attempt to defend the society of the ‘twenties or to explain away its problems, its ills, its evils.

But I did try to show the consequences of a total repudiation of the “establishment” (a term we did not know thirty years ago, of course), the consequences of believing that “no” by itself is an adequate answer, or indeed an answer at all.

Understanding of the dynamics of the totalitarianism of yesterday may help us better to understand today and to prevent a recurrence of yesterday.

It may, I hope above all, 

help young people today 

to turn 

their idealism, 

their genuine distress over the horrors of this world, 

and their desire for a better and braver tomorrow 

into constructive action for, 

rather than 

into totalitarian nihilism 

as their predecessors did thirty years ago.

For at the end of this road 

there could only be 

another Hitler 

and another “ultimate solution” 

with its gas chambers and extermination camps.

Though published thirty years ago, The End of Economic Man is still being widely read and quoted.

But I believe that the time has come to re-issue this book and to make it available to a wider reading public, especially, of course, to the young people most of whom were not even born when it first came out.

My own work has led me into many other fields: 

the study of the new organizations of our pluralist society — 

government agency, business corporation, trade union, hospital, and so on 

— their structure and management; 

the anticipation and analysis of trends in knowledge, learning, and perception; 

and the opportunities, needs and careers of the educated young people in our “educated society.”

Yet The End of Economic Man may, of all my books, be the one most particularly relevant to young people today.

It should not only help them understand what we, their parents, should have understood to avert the great catastrophe of our lives.

It may help today’s generation avert another such catastrophe in their own lives.

Peter F. Drucker 

Montclair, New Jersey

New Year’s Day, 1969





THIS IS A political book.

As such it does not lay claim 

to the detached aloofness of the scholar 

nor to the studied impartiality of the news reporter.

It has a political purpose to serve: 

to strengthen the will to maintain freedom against the threat of its abandonment in favor of totalitarianism.

And it is based upon the preconceived conviction that there can be no compromise between 

the basic principles of the European tradition 

and those of the totalitarian revolution.

Just because I am aware that fascism and Nazism threaten the basic principles of Europe, I have found myself unable to accept the usual explanations and interpretations of the totalitarian revolution.

The Alternative to Tyranny

They appear to me to content themselves with surface phenomena.

Only too often they refuse to admit unassailable evidence and cling instead to wishful thinking in a way pathetically reminiscent of the self-deception in which all ancien régime’s have indulged in order to conceal that they had actually died.

And this self-deception of the advocates of the old order has always helped the new revolutionary forces more than their own victories.

It has therefore seemed imperative to me to find an explanation and interpretation of totalitarianism which is valid and adequate.

Since there are neither “accidents” nor “miracles” in political and social life, and since political and social effects always have adequate causes, a revolution that threatens the basis of society can only be explained by fundamental changes within the basis of social organization itself.

It must be owing to a revolution of man’s concept of his own nature, of the nature of his society, and of his own function and place in this society.

In this book have made an attempt to explain and interpret fascism and Nazism as fundamental revolutions.

This analysis confines itself intentionally to the social and economic sphere, though I do not believe in the materialist interpretation of history.

I believe that the material, far from being the foundation of human society, is but one pole of human existence.

It is of no greater, though of no less, importance than the other pole, the spiritual — corresponding to man’s dual nature as belonging at the same time to the animal kingdom and to the kingdom of heaven.

Accordingly human developments and changes show as much in man’s spiritual activity and in the arts as in society and business; to analyze a revolution would seem to call for an analysis of the whole.

But, in the first place, such an attempt is bound to come to grief and to end in a Spenglerian nightmare which, though it may not have overlooked the least little detail of human activity — cooking or sex rites, military tactics or cartography — has yet lost track of man himself in the process.

In the second place, the last centuries have been characterized by their efforts to make the spiritual serve the material sphere.

It would clearly be the most roundabout and wasteful way to try, for instance, to analyze the religious Reformation of the sixteenth century as originating in the social and economic sphere since the preceding centuries from the thirteenth onward had been characterized by the attempted subordination of the material to the spiritual sphere.

But it would be equally wasteful to start an analysis of the present revolution from the spiritual sphere.

Nevertheless, it should not be forgotten that my analysis of the changes in the social sphere gives only one-half of the picture.

My attempts to formulate this analysis go back to the halcyon days of pre-Hitler Europe when Italian fascism seemed to be just a negligible annoyance in a democratic world which was fast approaching perfection.

But even then our peace of mind seemed unreal, and some catastrophe imminent.

This analysis had, accordingly, been completed in substance when Nazism came to power in Germany.

It has stood the test of the years since, in so far as it has enabled me to forecast the actual trend of events with some degree of exactitude.

Since I can claim, therefore, that it has proved itself to be more than a mere hypothesis, feel justified in publishing it.

Doing so, however, feel compelled to add one warning which seems so important to me that I repeat it in the book itself.

Though this analysis has been written in New York, and though it is intended primarily for American readers, its conclusions are not to be applied indiscriminately — if at all — to the United States.

Whatever the underlying forces are which will determine the developments in the United States, they are different from those in Europe.

The tendency to apply European patterns to American developments to which only too many of my American friends are prone, seems to me to be detrimental to the understanding of Europe as well as to that of the United States.

It would, indeed, run counter to all my intentions if my arguments and conclusions were to be used — or abused — for similar purposes.

Finally, I should like to express my gratitude to my wife, who has aided and assisted me throughout my work with advice, criticism, and suggestions.

I should never have been able to complete it but for her help and co-operation.

I should also like to record my indebtedness to Mr. Richard J. Walsh, who has revised the entire manuscript, and whose suggestions and recommendations have proved invaluable; and to Mr. Harold Manheim, who has given lavishly of his time and advice in connection with the final editing.

Peter F. Drucker 

Bronxville, New York

January, 1939


The Unfashionable Kierkegaard

Note to self: add something about logic bubbles from Edward de Bono




“The greatest danger in times of turbulence is not turbulence;

it is to act with yesterday’s logic”. — Peter Drucker



The shift from manual workers
who do as they are being told
either by the task or by the boss —

TO knowledge workers
who have to manage themselves

profoundly challenges social structure


Managing Oneself (PDF) is a REVOLUTION in human affairs.” …

“It also requires an almost 180-degree change in the knowledge workers’ thoughts and actions from what most of us—even of the younger generation—still take for granted as the way to think and the way to act.” …

… “Managing Oneself is based on the very opposite realities:
Workers are likely to outlive organizations (and therefore, employers can’t be depended on for designing your life),

and the knowledge worker has mobility.” ← in a context



More than anything else,

the individual
has to take more responsibility
for himself or herself,
rather than depend on the company.”


“Making a living is no longer enough
‘Work’ has to make a life .” continue

finding and selecting the pieces of the puzzle


The Second Curve




These pages are attention directing tools for navigating a world moving relentlessly toward unimagined futures.



What’s the next effective action on the road ahead


It’s up to you to figure out what to harvest and calendarize
working something out in time (1915, 1940, 1970 … 2040 … the outer limit of your concern)nobody is going to do it for you.

It may be a step forward to actively reject something (rather than just passively ignoring) and then working out a plan for coping with what you’ve rejected.

Your future is between your ears and our future is between our collective ears — it can’t be otherwise.

A site exploration: The memo THEY don't want you to see



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