Joe’s Journal: Genealogy of a Social Ecologist

“Social ecology is not value free. If it is a science at all, it is a ‘moral science’ – to use an old term that has been out of fashion for two hundred years … The social ecologist believes, must believe, in the sanctity of spiritual creation.”

— Peter F. Drucker

[Peter] Drucker’s writings on management and society reflect his acknowledgement and acceptance of the inherent conflict that he saw as part of human existence. In essence, his life’s output is an exploration of the nature of humankind, the role of good and evil, and the function of the individual within the larger community.

Drucker’s approach to management, then, was driven by his view of humankind and society, centering on the concept that we are seeking some kind of resolution to the tension inherent in human interactions. Pulled between competing forces, humans must navigate between various extremes, finding a middle ground of existence. For Drucker, society must find a middle ground between one extreme, the complete loss of individual identity and freedom, and the other, the complete loss of social meaning and responsibility.

Following in a long and varied tradition of philosophical and intellectual inquiry, Drucker’s work is a search for answers to questions about the nature of human existence within society: how does one live as a free individual within the confines and demands of larger society? What limits can society place on individual freedoms? What responsibilities does each person have toward the commonwealth? What should individuals expect from society? These questions became increasingly urgent for Drucker as he saw Europe turn to one ideology after another in its collective search for answers. Socialism, totalitarianism, and even capitalism could not provide the solutions to the problems of economic malaise, social turmoil, and human despair that characterized most of Europe in the inter-war period. The grim nature of instability, and the even darker reality of how people chose to resolve the tension inherent in social existence, drove Drucker’s work on management and society.

— Joe Maciariello is on vacation this week. This piece is excerpted from “Genealogy of a Social Ecologist,” by Joe and Karen Linkletter, which first appeared in the Journal of Management History.