Academic journal article Journal of Australian Political Economy

The Wages of Destruction: The Making and Breaking of the Nazi Economy

Academic journal article Journal of Australian Political Economy

The Wages of Destruction: The Making and Breaking of the Nazi Economy

Article excerpt

The Wages of Destruction: the Making and Breaking of the Nazi Economy.

Adam Tooze

Allen Lane, London, 2006, 800 pp.

This book is a masterly account of the Nazi economy, starting with its development during the 1930s after Adolf Hitler's accession to power and ending with the ultimate failure of the fascist war machine. It is compiled from detailed research and presented with impressive command of the narrative historical art. From start to finish--and that is a very long journey--it is compelling reading. So, although the book is now a few years old, it warrants attention among JAPE readers, particularly those who are interested in the potential power and capacity of a state to radically transform an economy or society--for good or evil.

Although the primary focus of the book is on the transformation of the German economy to a war footing and the ways in which state power was used to effect that transformation, attention is also paid to the broader international political economic context. Tooze argues strongly that it was the perception of the growing power of the USA relative to Europe that underpinned Hitler's view of the inevitability of war. More than superpower rivalry, what was at stake, as Tooze puts it, was 'fear of the world Jewish conspiracy, manifested in the shape of 'Wall Street Jewry' and the 'Jewish media' of the United States. F. D. Roosevelt was seen as 'the chosen one of world Jewry' representing those interests. The German 'fatherland'--indeed the whole European social order--was perceived to be vulnerable to the changing balance of power in the international political economy. Hence the perceived necessity of economic modernisation, political mobilisation and military first strike. Hence the Nazi rationale for using state power, as ruthlessly as necessary, to redirect labour to the war economy, thereby effecting what was probably the most dramatic state-led political economic transformation of all time. …

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