Peter Drucker: Early Futurist

Peter Drucker, the business management guru, is one of the earliest futurists to come out with philosophies for the 21st Century. Peter Drucker’s ideas have become so cross-pollinated with modern evangelicalism — particularly in the the Purpose-Driven church, and marketplace ministries — that it becomes important to address his philosophies.

Drucker’s book Landmarks of Tomorrow was a futurist classic. First published in 1959, in 1996 it was re-issued with a new Introduction by the author. Like futurist Willis Harman several decades later, Drucker wrote about the necessity to create a “metaphysical science” for the coming “new age” — “The new view of the world, the new concepts, the new human capacities” (1996 Introduction, p. xvi). Drucker believed that man’s inherent problems could be overcome, apparently even the “problem” of Original Sin:

“Knowledge and power have been problems of man since the Garden of Eden. Now they are in the center of his existence. The solution to them which the new age finds will, in the last analysis, determine its character and meaning. If it fails to solve them, it will not only be a dark age without starts even to light up the night; it may well be the last age of man — and conquest of space will not alter this. If however the new age succeeds in solving these problems, it could become one of the greatest eras of man.” (p. 268) [emphasis added]

Expressing his religious philosophy, Drucker wrote, in an apparent reference to Genesis 3:5:

“Society needs a return to spiritual values — not to offset the material but to make it fully productive. . . . Mankind needs the return to spiritual values, for it needs compassion. It needs the deep experience that the Thou and the I are one, which all higher religions share.” (1996, p. 264-265)

In his early life Drucker was influenced by German mysticism. In his later life Drucker was influenced by Zen. Both philosophies incorporate the idea of holism. He defined it in the 1996 Introduction: “the parts exist in contemplation of the whole.” (p. 6) Elsewhere he expressed his Zen philosophy in an interview with Harriet Rubin for Inc. magazine (“Peter’s Principles,” 3/1/98 []). In discussing how Drucker sees the world, Ms. Rubin noted that he collected Japanese paintings. “They teach him about Japan, but they also teach him how to look.”

“Drucker takes me into his study. He points to a few black smudges on a yellowed piece of paper on the wall. The painting looks like nothing in the Louvre. I find myself thinking that it’s black and white and pitifully austere. Drucker adjusts his thick glasses and looks. “I bet you don’t see much in it,” he says. I rub my 20/20s. He’s right. He starts teaching me the way a Japanese painter would look at things.

“He hands me a book, A Concise History of Japanese Art. Inside is a tiny pencil, nesting in a page that says the following:

“‘The Zen-inspired painter seeks the ‘truth’ of a landscape, like that of religion, in sudden enlightenment. This allows no time for careful detailed draftsmanship. After long contemplation, he is expected to be able to seize inner truth in a swordlike stroke of the brush. This ‘essentialism’ can be expressed equally well in a large landscape or in the branch of a tree, in the broadest panorama as well as in each of its minute components….'”

Interestingly, this philosophy of “holism” forms a foundation for much of the doctrine perpetuated by the global futurists. Noted futurist Ervin Laszlo, in his 1974 book A Strategy for the Future: A Systems Approach to World Order, developed a blueprint for world governance based on the concept of holism. (Ervin Laszlo had much to do with the Club of Rome, which is relevant to yesterday’s Herescope post.)

Futurism and Rick Warren

This discussion of Drucker’s religious beliefs is important in light of the Christianity Today article cited on Herescope on 10/04/05 in which Drucker — a major architect of workplace spirituality — is mid-identified as a Christian by writer Jeff Sellers. Drucker’s key influence over the second half of the 20th century was, of course, primarily in the business world. He was one of the premier agents of change, bringing the new doctrines of futurism to the corporate world, cleverly wrapped in the language of economics. However, he also concentrated his efforts in what he called the “private sector,” i.e, churches and charities. In this capacity Drucker has been a “mentor” to Pastor Rick Warren, helping him to establish Purpose-Driven as a major name brand in the evangelical market. Drucker “has been a close friend of his for years. . . ‘I once heard Drucker say this,’ Warren said. “‘Warren is not building a tent revival ministry, like the old-style evangelists. He’s building an army, like the Jesuits.”‘” (“The Cellular Church,” by Malcolm Gladwell, New Yorker magazine, 9/12/05)

Indeed, the estoeric philosophy of holism is most evident in the cellular structure of the small groups that Warren is building.

The Truth:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of man. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.” (John 1:1-5)

“And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:4-5)

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