The salvation of meaning in Peter Drucker's oeuvre

Madeline Toubiana*, Gad Yair

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to illuminate Peter Drucker's management theory by exploring German theological concerns which constituted his unique approach in management theory. Design/methodology/approach: To uncover the secularized German theological roots in Drucker's work, the paper juxtaposes his writings from his 60-year-long career with prior cultural interpretations of German scholarship. Findings: The analysis shows that German secularized theological concerns surrounding the fall of modernity influenced Drucker's oeuvre, leading him to advocate "the meaningful organization" as a pragmatic solution to the ills of modern society. While Drucker's ideas evolved over the years, the paper shows that his agenda to promote meaningful organizations in an otherwise totalitarian-prone, alienated, rationalized and meaningless era remained consistent. This interpretation suggests that Drucker believed that management had moral duties in a Nietzschean godless world. The paper shows that these themes continued structuring Drucker's corpus in three domains: the information revolution, corporate social responsibility, and the role of organizations in the third sector. Research limitations/implications: The paper reveals that Drucker was driven by deep cultural codes that proscribed many of his observations and suggested remedies. Hence, it calls for similar unearthing of the historical roots of management theory and practice. Originality/value: In this paper a novel interpretation of Drucker's work is introduced. Extending work highlighting Drucker's spiritual roots, the paper demonstrates that the German secularized theological conception of the downfall of modernity was a constant lens through which Drucker saw the world, and that this historical backdrop was the motivating spur in his attempt to save it from another catastrophe. Given the entrenchment of Drucker's ideas in today's management practices and theories, it is imperative to understand these German moral and theological predispositions.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)178-199
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Management History
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2012


  • Culture
  • German social theory
  • Management gurus
  • Management theory
  • National cultures
  • Peter Drucker


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