A Big-Picture Thinker Views World Trends
THE NEW REALITIES: IN GOVERNMENT AND POLITICS, IN ECONOMICS AND BUSINESS, IN SOCIETY AND WORLD VIEW
by Peter F. Drucker, New York: Harper & Row, 288 pp., $19.95.
THERE are 16 essays in this book by management expert Peter Drucker. They are so full of fresh ideas that probably every one of them could be the subject of an entire book review. Mr. Drucker doesn't lack for things to say. He has previously written 10 books on management; another nine on economics, politics, and society; and a couple of fictional works to boot. They often are sufficiently insightful to become international best sellers.
Drucker defines this latest book as an attempt to point out the wide differences between the ``new realities'' in government and politics, economics and business, society and the world view, and the issues on which politicians, economists, scholars, businessmen, and union leaders still fix their attention.
Actually, not all the essays hang together well. But this disjointed feeling doesn't matter much. The book's theme gives Drucker an excuse to wrap his mind around a wide range of topics. A long time ago Drucker was a correspondent in the United States for some British publications. He hasn't lost his knack for becoming an instant expert on a topic, digging out and analyzing the latest trends in a clear, interesting manner.
Here's a sampling of what he has to say: The Russian Empire
Drucker predicts the Soviet Union will break up in one of three ways. It could split into two halves, with both the European half and the Asian half splintering even further into national groups. Or the Asians, who will outnumber the Europeans after the year 2000, could dominate the country. Third, there is the possibility of some sort of confederation, loosely held together and in constant turmoil as nationalities and autonomous republics struggle for power.
``Whatever the outcome,'' he writes, ``it will be neither `Russian' nor `Empire.' The disintegration of the Russian Empire will create totally new realities in international politics - realities for which no one is yet prepared, least of all the United States.'' Arms
After noting the massive arms race of the past 40 years, Drucker concludes: ``Arms have proven themselves counterproductive. They have become a major drain on economic performance and economic development - a major cause of Russia's economic crisis, of America's falling behind economically, and of the failure of development, especially in Latin America.''
He holds that military forces are no longer militarily effective or capable of serving as the tool of national policy. He calls for a rethinking of the entire role and function of defense, of armaments, and the military.
Drucker doesn't call for unilateral disarmament or pacificism. But he does want an end to the arms race and a recognition that neither the United States nor the Soviet Union have an interest in gaining or maintaining a military advantage.
``They have a common interest in becoming weaker militarily. But we are still a long way from this being understood, let alone accepted. To accept that it is in the common interest of all countries to cut back on military expenditures and military establishment may, however, come easier than anyone would have thought only five years ago.''
He says the time may be coming when all major nations can agree to forgo military aid as self-defeating and band together to stop terrorism. Transnational Economy
Drucker argues that with the emergence of the transnational company and with the dominance of cross-border flows of money and credit over international trade in ``real'' goods and services, there is no longer an economic superpower.
``No matter how big, powerful, and productive a country may be, it competes every day for its world market position.... There is no more `superpower' in industry, either; there are only competitors.''
Managers must base business policy on this new transnational structure, he says. ``To have leadership in any area in the non-Communist developed world, a business - in manufacturing, in finance, in services - has to have a strong, if not a leadership, position in all areas of the `Triad' of North America, Western Europe, and Japan. The three do not constitute one market, but they do constitute one economy. Any firm in any of the three areas potentially competes with any firm in the other two.'' Post-Business Society
``As a result of the success of business, the capitalist has become economically almost irrelevant in developed countries.... The power of the capitalists has gone down as fast as their economic importance.''
Drucker probably wouldn't deny that business lobbies can have clout in Washington. But, as is common in this volume, Drucker speaks with something of a historical sweep. The power of today's capitalists cannot compare with that, say, of the tycoons at the turn of the century in the US, or of Hugo Stinnes, the coal and steel magnate who in 1922 single-handedly imposed on the German government the policy that pushed the government into hyperinflation. He notes that the employees, through their pension funds, are now the real capitalists. He also refers to the new freedom today's ``knowledge workers'' - those in the sciences, computers, or with special financial skills, etc. - have to go where they will, relatively unbound by company loyalty or pressure. Blue-Collar Workers
``In the early 1970s, industrial workers began to decline fast, first as a proportion of the work force, then in numbers, and finally in political power and influence. By the year 2010 - another 20 years on - they will have shrunk in the developed, non-Communist countries to where farmers are now, that is, to between 5 and 10 percent of the work force. It is by no means sure that their own institution, the labor union, can survive, and certain that it cannot survive in its traditional role and form.''
Drucker sometimes overstates his case in making arguments. And one can quarrel with him on details. Nonetheless, Drucker does cut through much mythology to find the ``new realities.''