THE PETER PYRAMID: Or, Will We Ever Get the Point? by Laurence J. Peter
Kirkus Star

THE PETER PYRAMID: Or, Will We Ever Get the Point?

Email this review


What do you do for an encore after uncovering one of the most quoted, most fundamental principles of corporate life in America? Though Peter brings the same thoughtful wit to this volume as to his original best seller, his Pyramid is a far less compelling model than his Principle. The thesis here is essentially that things get complicated. As he phrases it: ""Systems start small and grow to occupy all our time and space."" We build our pyramids upside-down, so they can never be completed. The argument is made in common-sense style, augmented by numerous anecdotes, quotes, and cartoons. Every paragraph, in fact, is followed by a quote, drawn from such disparate sources as rock-music avant-gardist Brian Eno, socialist Michael Harrington, and Czar Nicholas I. Though interesting, the quotes are often illogical links that jar the flow of the writing. The many anecdotes and examples of egregious government boondoggles, legalese gibberish, and bureaucratic dysfunction are often amusing, but sometimes are highly predictable potshots on very likely targets. The argument's essential problem lies in the meaning of order. Is it simpler for everyone to have his own apple tree, or for one person to grow all the apples? Each system has benefits. Simplicity, though it often may be a useful ideal, is not itself an answer to all our bureaucratic, economic, and social ills. In a sense, Peter is attempting to popularize the philosophy of E.F. Schumacher's ""Small is Beautiful,"" which is cited as a major influence. In doing this he underplays the radical nature of that work. Peter is a clever and provocative writer, but unlike his Principle, his Pyramid tries to explain too much. Its failings shouldn't deter a broad audience, however And think of the poster possibilities!

Pub Date: Jan. 21st, 1985
Publisher: Morrow