The Temptation to do Good

Peter F. Drucker
New York: Harper & Row, 1984
152 pp., $14.50

The second novel of noted management authority Peter F. Drucker is a thought-provoking parable involving two contemporary bureaucracies-the university and the Catholic Church.

Appropriately somber and plain, this novel lacks the richness and sweep of his first novel, The Last of All Possible Worlds, which described fin de siecle Europe, when the rise of economics portended the fall of politics as the most important human endeavor. Drucker’s more recent subject is the crisis of human purpose that follows the triumph of a plurality of organizations over an overarching principle of political order.

Father Henry Zimmerman, President of St. Jerome University, has developed this midwestern Catholic university from a substandard institution to a nationally preeminent one. Despite national and campus admiration for his achievements and his popularity, the bitter wife of a junior faculty member shakes his position by falsely accusing him of having an affair with his devoted assistant, Agnes Muller. The attempts of various characters (many appropriately German in this novel about bureaucracy) to deal with a wild charge and the unanticipated consequences of their actions turn it into a full-blown scandal. Drucker not only presents a “case-study” of the behavior of organi­zations, but, more important, he raises fundamental questions of moral and political life: What are the purposes of human institutions, especially two devoted to the highest of human ends: faith and reason? In raising the question of how the heads of organizations can combine moral intention with leadership capacity, he recalls the classical question of prudence. (See the interview with Drucker in The Claremont Review of Books, February 1984, “Reviving the ‘Moral Sciences.'”)

Consider the two organizations Drucker des­cribes: The university developed through the Church; the crisis of purpose in the one reflects the crisis in the other, and both crises are magnified in the notion of the Catholic university. At one level we ask ourselves how the good of the whole, the common good, can exist in any organization or society. At another we see the inescapable need to make intelligent moral decisions as a part of intelli­gent administration-hence the title. The Tempta­tion to do Good has a logical place in the remarkable career of a writer who has aided our understanding of subjects as various as fascism, American politics, Japanese art, and management.

Joan Didion
New York: Simon and Schuster, 1984.
234 pp., $13.95

Protagonist Inez Christian Victor, wife of a prominent Democratic presidential aspirant, is an utterly desolate figure who presides over the moral and political wreckage of America and the West during the sixties and early seventies. The American aristocracy of power she represents contrasts quite unfavorably with even that known by her predeces­sor, Mrs. Lightfoot Lee of Henry Adams’ Democ­racy. But Adams’ frustration with democracy could be eased only through escape to Chartres and the undemocratic world it reflected, while Miss Didion’s mockery of contemporary mores leads, in the novel, only to the artist’s own self-conscious mockery of herself.


A World Without a U.N.: What Would Happen If The United Nations Shut Down
Edited by Burton Yale Pines,
Foreword by Ambassador Charles M. Lichenstein,
The Heritage Foundation, Washington, D.C., 1984
176 pp., $8.00 (paperback)

This volume, the latest product of the Heritage Foundation’s ongoing “United Nations Assessment Project,” evaluates the role of the U.N. in the areas of health, environment, economic development, education, food, human rights, disarmament, and peacekeeping. Each chapter was written by a special­ist in the field; Claremont Institute Resident Fellow Patrick J. Garrity contributed the chapter on “The U.N. and Peacekeeping.” Garrity concludes, “In the many hundreds of wars and internal conflicts since the end of World War II, the U.N. has been able to play a significant role in only a handful.” It is the consensus of the contributors that the U.N. accomplishes very little of any value. Unless the U.N. is reformed and scaled down in some very specific ways, editor Pines suggests, the United States and the Western democracies should leave, which would probably prompt the dissolution of the U.N. “[A] world without a U.N.,” Pines con­cludes, “would be a better world.”

Ways of Wisdom: Readings on the Good Life
Edited by Steven Smith
University Press of America, 1984
312 pp., $25.25 (cloth), $13.50 (paperback)

Claremont McKenna College philosophy instruc­tor Steven Smith has compiled a smorgasbord of readings on “the good life,” intended for use as an introductory textbook for college freshmen. The book contains selections ranging from Plato to Nietzsche, Epicurus to the Psalms, Freud to Abraham Maslow and Carl Rogers, Tolstoy to Sartre. This book is unfortunately all too typical of the present state of philosophy instruction. Smith intends these readings as a gourmet chef intends a delectable menu: Somewhere there is something you will like. The “good life” for Smith is not primarily an ethical life; he draws a distinction between “living well” and “living rightly” and identifies the “good life” as “living well.” The quest for the “good life” thus understood is not the quest for the good life, but simply a good life, chosen from an array of possible “good lives,” and chosen according to the idiosyn­cratic criteria of each individual. “[T]he content of the good life will vary from person to person,” Smith writes in the introduction. “The theme of this book is personal growth toward a better, more satisfying, more successful individual life.” This approach represents the abdication of a philosophi­cally informed inquiry, as Socrates warns in the Gorgias. Smith dedicates the book “to my students,” but it is doubtful they will be well served by it.

Daniel Patrick Moynihan
New York: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1984
xi + 96 pp., $9.95 (cloth)

If Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s career provokes a single question, it is wherein his loyalties lie. The senator and ex-academic has exasperated followers in the past few years. A valiant defender of the principles of democracy while Ambassador at the United Nations, he now bemoans the American invasion of Grenada and endorses the nuclear freeze. Loyalties, his most recent work, inadvertently explains his apparent shift.

The book’s three essays reveal Moynihan as a thoughtful, if frequently enraged, critic of presi­dential policy. The first essay recounts his fight against the MX missile during its promotion by both the Carter and Reagan administrations. In the second, he has a sharp rebuke for Carter’s dealings with the U.N. and the Soviet-sponsored attempt of that body to equate Zionism with racism. The last piece, entitled “The Idea of Law in the Conduct of Nations,” muses on the lack of success of the venerable concept of international law. But here, as in the other essays, Moynihan discusses a difficult question only at the level of faulty policy develop­ment-suggesting that Moynihan’s true loyalties lie with his role as critic.