Building the Nazi Economy

Adam Tooze and a Cultural Critique of Hitler’s Plans for War

In: Historical Materialism
Paul B. Jaskot College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences, DePaul University

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Adam Tooze’s Wages of Destruction argues for the fundamental economic reasoning that brought Hitler and the Nazi elite to the conclusion that war and genocide were the twin means of achieving their ends. But what happens if we introduce culture into this equation, a term of clear importance to Hitler and to many of the individuals Tooze has identified as key to understanding the economic developments, not least of whom was Hitler’s favourite architect, Albert Speer? Culture is a field of activity of relatively little interest to Tooze. Conversely, such comprehensive views of Nazi Germany as Tooze’s that emphasise a deep political and economic analysis have equally been of little interest to cultural historians of the period, with few exceptions. How might Tooze’s fundamental arguments about the economic drive of the state help to explain specific kinds of architectural developments and sharpen a critical art-historical analysis? Conversely, how does the profoundly spatial nature of the implementation of policies he isolates demand an architectural or urban analysis from political and economic historians? By bringing Tooze’s argument to bear on culture, and architecture’s function to bear on Tooze, this article affirms his fundamental conclusions and yet complicates their implications for other disciplinary questions. In both cases, a comprehensive approach to Hitler’s Germany is called for, one that makes a critical intervention particularly in fields of cultural study that have avoided such a broad strategy.

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