New Realities: In Government and Politics, in Economics and Business, in Society and World View

New Realities: In Government and Politics, in Economics and Business, in Society and World View

by Peter F. Drucker


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ISBN-13: 9780060916992
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 06/28/1990
Pages: 288

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The Divide

Even in the flattest landscape there are passes where the road first climbs to a peak and then descends into a new valley. Most of these passes are only topography, with little or no difference in climate, language, or culture between the valleys on either side. But some passes are different. They are true divides. They often are neither high nor spectacular. The Brenner is the lowest and gentlest of the passes across the Alps; yet from earliest times it has marked the border between Mediterranean and Nordic cultures. The Delaware Water Gap, some seventy miles west of New York City, is not even a real pass; yet it still divides Eastern seaboard and mid-America.

History, too, knows such divides. They also tend to be unspectacular and are rarely much noticed at the time. But once these divides have been crossed, the social and political landscape changes. Social and political climate is different and so is social and political language. There are new realities.

Some time between 1965 and 1973 we passed over such a divide and entered "the next century." We passed out of creeds, commitments, and alignments that had shaped politics for a century or two. We are in political terra incognita with few familiar landmarks to guide us. No one except a mere handful of Stalinists believes any more in salvation by society-the faith which since the eighteenth century's Enlightenment had been the dominant force and main engine of politics. But the one effective political counterforce is also spent: political integration in and through interest blocs. It was America's own contribution to the art and practice of politics, fashioned first by MarkHanna at the very end of the last century and then perfected, forty years later, by Franklin D. Roosevelt in the New Deal.

The last of the colonial empires, Russia, has entered the final phase of decolonization. Whatever succeeds, it is unlikely to be either "Russian" or "Empire."And after three hundred or more years in which armaments were "productive" and worked as instruments of policy, they have become "counterproductive": an economic drain if not economically crippling; treacherous as a tool of politics; and-the most important and least expected change-impotent militarily.These are the main realities to be discussed in this first part of the book.


The last such "divide" was crossed exactly a century earlier, in 1873. In its economic impacts that year's crash on the Vienna Stock Market was a non-event. All it did was to set off short-lived stock market panics in Frankfurt, London, Paris, and New York. Eighteen months later the economy through-out the entire Western world had fully recovered.

But politically the crash on a fairly obscure stock exchange marked the end of the Liberal era, the end of the one hundred years in which laissez-faire was the dominant political creed. That century had begun in 1776 with the Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith. Within ten years after 1873, the great Liberal parties that had marched under the banners of "progress" and "enlightenment" all over the West were in retreat and disarray. They never recovered.

On the European continent they almost immediately split into Marxist and anti-Semitic Socialists. Both were equally anti-capitalist, and hostile to free markets and "bourgeois democracy." Anti-Semitism appealed to the traditional anti-capitalists, the peasants and small tradesmen, rather than to the "post-capitalist" industrial worker. It was however as much rejection of laissez-faire and of the bourgeois ethos as Marxism. And like Marxist socialism, it was defined from the beginning, quite openly, as engine of political integration and as organizing principle for the conquest of political power. In fact, the first politician anywhere to put into effect a Socialist program and to expropriate the gas company, the electric power company and the streetcar company, was not a Marxist but an anti-Semitic Socialist: Karl Lueger, elected as Lord Mayor of Vienna in 1897. As Joseph Stalin showed, some fifty years later, Marxism and anti-Semitism can easily be combined. Of course, Stalin was no longer quite sane toward the end of his life. But it was not just paranoia that made Stalin embark in the late 1940s on an anti-Semitic campaign. A master politician, he surely realized the failure of Marxism as a creed and reached for the anti-Semitic alternative to rejuvenate a dying socialism and a paralyzed Communist Party.

From the beginning, that is, from the 1880s on, Marxist and anti-Semitic "national" socialism were thus in parallel and competing with each other for the succession to "bourgeois" liberalism. Before the 1873 crash, two young men, Victor Adler and Georg von Schdnerer, had been the rising stars of Austrian liberalism, close allies and good friends. Within five years, they had become bitter enemies. Adler emerged as the continent's most respected Marxist leader and Schonerer founded the first anti-Semitic political party. Adolf Hitler would put into practice in Germany sixty years later what he had imbibed from Schonerer while a young drifter in Vienna in the years before World War I.

Before 1873, Karl Marx was a fairly obscure "oddball," eking out a precarious living as a journalist. Five years later he had become a major intellectual figure with disciples throughout Europe and even in America. Within twenty years after 1873, Marxist Socialists had become the single largest party in every major continental European country, in France and Italy, Germany and Austria, and even-though officially suppressed-in czarist Russia.

Ten years after the Vienna crash-between 1883 and 1888-Bismarck, the German chancellor, invented national health insurance and compulsory old-age insurance. This launched the "welfare state," in which government provides the safety net of Social Security. At the same time Great Britain and Austria began to push back the power of employers through factory inspection, health and safety rules, and restrictions on the employment of children and women.

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New Realities: In Government and Politics, in Economics and Business, in Society and World View 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
carterchristian1 on LibraryThing 28 days ago
Written just before the close of the Cold War, 20 years later the essays are still useful.