The Return of Peter Drucker’s Novels
January 10th, 2017
A quiet piece of good news from 2016 was the reissue, after more than three decades, of the two novels written by Peter Drucker in the early ‘80s, The Last of All Possible Worlds (1982) and The Temptation to Do Good (1984). The original publisher of both books was HarperCollins (then called Harper & Row), and the new publisher, which has combined the two volumes into one book, is Philadelphia-based Paul Dry Books.
I wrote about both novels, including answers I received from Drucker about them during a 2003 interview conducted at his home in Claremont, California; in my 2009 book Living in More Than One World: How Peter Drucker’s Wisdom Can Inspire and Transform Your Life, and a blog post from that year, “Peter Drucker: Novelist.”
The new volume has received a nice boost from an insightful and appreciative Wall Street Journal review by Daniel Johnson, “The Lessons of His Life: It may surprise even his most fervent admirers to learn that Peter Drucker, the world’s best-known business ‘guru,’ was also a novelist.” As noted in the review, Drucker was a longtime columnist for the newspaper, among his many writing activities. Johnson, the editor of the British publication Standpoint, writes that “Drucker believed that in business one is constantly faced with moral choices. Hence management should be taught not as a pseudoscience but as a branch of the liberal arts. That he himself was a man of deep humanity, conscious that even the most calculating capitalist harbors the same desires, dreams and dread as the rest of us, emerges clearly from these two fascinating fictions.”
In that spirit, it’s also worth returning to an Inside Higher Ed essay by Melanie Ho, now the Executive Director of EAB, that I referenced in the 2009 post: “Business and the Relevance of Liberal Arts.” Writing when the books were still out of print, and during the severe economic downturn still in place that year, Ho notes that “the university he presented in his 1984 novel, The Temptation to Do Good, confronted some key questions that face higher education institutions in today’s unprecedented financial downturn: Are current practices sustainable? Have we strayed from our core mission? Will the liberal arts survive increasing budget pressures?”