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Free to Follow: Did the Nazis Invent the Modern Culture of Management? | | Culture

Is there a connection between modern corporate management methods and Nazi Germany? , explains how the Hitler regime launched a model of hierarchical organization based on individual initiative and delegation of responsibility.

According to Chapoutot, the Nazis championed a non-authoritarian concept of work in which workers were no longer subordinates, but rather “collaborators.”

This strategy of assigning tasks and defining capabilities served Germany’s war economy and the annihilation of millions of people, in contrast to the capitalist verticals of England and France at the end of the 19th century. However, it survived the end of the civil war in 1945 and remained a legacy to post-war Europe.

The essay caused surprise and some controversy when it was published in France in 2020, becoming a minor publication phenomenon.

“It was in studying the work of German legal scholars who theorized about the new normative framework of the regime that I discovered the similarities between the Nazi and neoliberal models. We needed new rights to empower us to eradicate,” explains Chapoutot at the restaurant attached to the Sorbonne. Among these theorists was Reinhard Hehn, the father of modern management in Germany after World War II.

Hoehn believed that the state should disappear and make way for a new, less bureaucratic and more dynamic government agency, and that autonomous, happy workers would thrive. The study of labor organization allows us to delve into the more thorny question of the historical status of Nazism in Europe.

“The Nazis are fully integrated into Western history. Hitler’s legacy is etched into our modern times. [simply] They took the logic that existed before they came to power and took them to extremes…and then remained after the regime’s demise. “

This essay deconstructs many myths about Nazism. Hitler, for example, actually opposed the idea of ​​a mighty state that was worshiped during the Prussian era. In 1934, he declared, “It is not the state that commands us, but we command the state.”

In opposition to Marxism, the Nazis promoted a kind of voluntary alienation of workers. “They promoted a new concept of subordination that their subordinates themselves accepted. The Nazist project was enormous. It had to produce, expand, reproduce and prepare for war in record time. Suppression didn’t work, you had to get the consent or even the enthusiasm of the subject,” notes Chapoutot. This ambition has resulted in an organization of works that emphasize their comfort features, ventilation and hygiene measures, ergonomics and leisure activities.

Historian Johann Chapoutot, author of Free to Obey, Paris, September 2022Bruno Alves

In Nazi Germany, the term “strength through joy” was popularized by the Ministry of Propaganda, and rulers were convinced that only an illusory sense of joy and happiness could sustain production. The state has organized vacations for workers, factory concerts, sports activities, special diets and courses to manage stressful workloads. The parallels to the emerging “happiness manager” in Silicon Valley (giving yoga courses to his employees and setting up his foosball tables) are eerie.

As made clear in two speeches on May 1, 1933, the goals of Hitler and Propaganda Minister Goebbels were to end class struggle, eliminate conflict in the workplace, and keep productivity intact. was.

“In contrast to what was called ‘Jewish-Marxism’ against labor and capital, Nazi propaganda created a different image of engineers and workers shaking hands.” , they were fighting together in the trenches because they belonged to the same nation, the same race. Marxism threatened to destroy that unity, ”explains Chapoutot. “Hitler told the workers that he was one of them.”

Above all, the Nazis advocated social Darwinism. It was a society of winners and losers, and the latter had no choice but to blame themselves for their failures. To be an acceptable citizen, one had to not only belong to the right race, but to produce beyond the means.

“When they were not, the individual became a burden on society and opened the door to extinction. The Nazis represented a kind of dehumanization that is still valid today. We are no longer people, we are human material… It was a ubiquitous expression in the language of the Nazi regime, later renamed “human resources.”

Chapoutot believes that the massive job cuts that are taking place in the post-industrial era are linked to the dehumanization that took place in the 1930s and 40s. He recalls the privatization of his telecom in France in 2009, when 35 workers committed suicide.

“Two years ago, the company’s CEO said the 22,000 furloughed employees — useless for a public company in the process of privatization — should leave ‘on the doorstep or by the window.’ , that happened, ”wails the historian.

He admits that his essay has a political dimension. “Regarding the current climate, [we need] To remember where that dangerous vocabulary came from. “