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Adventures of a Bystander
Peter Ferdinand Drucker
John Wiley & Sons, New York, 1978, 1994
ISBN: 0471247391
344 pages

p. 244 - The Prophets: Buckminster Fuller and Marshall McLuhan.

Peter F. Druckers' biography is vicegeral for all those biographies of Viennese talents, movers & shakers to be, that left Europe before and during WWII and found fertile ground for there talents in the United States. Drucker, well educated in a classical "Gymnasium" with compulsory Greek and Latin among physics, mathematics and chemistry, had the chance of discovering his true talents in the States and "invented" the discipline "management". His interest lay not in "micro-economics", pricing theory or resources, but in organisation, structure, the development of managers (where they get their "offspring" from) and the role of hierarchies. Companies as political and social institutions. (p.262) Such he sat in between the chairs of classical economics and the social sciences with neither one of them taking him and his ideas too serious. He is a very clear and thorough thinker with original insights & unusual perceptions on every page. Interested in the relationship of technology to society and culture.

In the chapter about Buckminster Fuller and Marshall McLuhan, whom he both befriended long before they became popular, he describes them as very diverse characters: Bucky fostering an idea of transcendence through "hard" technology - while McLuhan is described as being more prosaic, pragmatic; "man shaping himself through his tools." What both shared though was their awareness for the impact of technology upon society.

Drucker writes: "Enmity to, and disenchantment with, technology was the ostensible "cause" of the sixties and seventies. (...) But what went on in this decade only looked like "anti-technology". Actually, the decade discovered technology. Until then technology was something that could be left to technologists. Engineers built dams; Humanists read Joyce (...)
Suddenly, in the 1960s, technology was seen as a human activity; formerly it was only a technical activity, (...). Technology moved from the wings of the stage of history to which the "humanist" had always consigned it, and began to mingle freely with actors and even, at times, to steal the spotlight."

Another insightful quote:
"I do not believe that either Bucky Fuller or Marshall McLuhan can integrate technology, culture and metaphysics. Their vision nowhere relates technology to the specific human activity that is "work." Technology does indeed not deal with tools, machines, and artefacts alone in the way the engineer defines technology, the way the monumental five volume History of Technology (published between 1954 and 1958 under the editorship of the great English scholar, Charles Singer) defines technology, the way the Society for the History of Technology (founded in 1958) defines technology, and the way in which the Society's journal Technology and Culture deals with technology. But technology is also not a "cosmic force" or "extension of man." It is not, as Singer's History defines it, "how things are made or done." It is How man does or makes.Technology deals with the purposeful, man-made, nonorganic evolution through which man discharges that peculiarly and uniquely human activity, "work." And the way man does and makes, the way he works, that has profound impact on how man lives, how he lives with others of his own kind, and how he sees himself - and ultimately perhaps even what and who he is. Above all, work is the specific social bond in human life and history. The organic bond that is founded in the need to take care of helpless young, (...). "Technology is how man does and makes."
But the unique social bond that work creates-in all its plasticity, flexibility, diversity, and demands - is the specific human dimension; it is the interface between "technology" as "tools" and "technology" as "culture" and "personality". And work neither Bucky nor Marshall ever deigned to notice."

This book was brought to my attention by an interview with Stewart Brand to be found on the Bucky Fuller webpages of Standford University on occasion of the purchase of the Bucky Fuller archive. Meanwhile Fred Turner has published his brilliant "cyberculture - counterculture" book which illuminates the relationship between computers, hackers, the web and the counterculture idea highly critical and in depth. A true eyeopener.
On this page you find interviews with Stewart Brand, Peter F. Drucker, Norman Foster, Allegra Fuller Snyder among others ...

In another chapter Drucker describes three myths that Sigmund Freud constructed for himself:
1. Antisemitism. This was not true. He was offered the most prestigious jobs and rejected them. At the same time 60% of the Viennese surgeons, neurologists etc. were of Jewish decent. Most of them rejected Freud for changing the jewish, altruistic and idealistic profession of a healer through psychoanalysis into a "affordable" commodity of exploitation.
2. Poverty. Also not true. Freud came from a well to do family and himself was a professor at the end of 40. He at least was affluent.
3. Rejection of his theses by the Viennese population. Freud was talk of the day for an entire generation in educated homes. He was notorious in Vienna.

One of the best chapters is where Drucker describes his passion for teaching. He uses many examples of different teaching styles and methods from his youth in Vienna. Often these are hilariously funny and entertaining. In retrospect he analyses and compares them to his own style and those of colleagues.

Altogether Drucker wrote over 30 books.
Most of these pertain to Management. If they are as clear, warm and intelligently written as this, they must be well worth reading!


Google's blog quoting Drucker: "[C]ompanies attracting the best knowledge workers will "secure the single biggest factor for competitive advantage.""
Our Googley advice to students: Major in learning

last update: 4/20/02010 15:48

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