Robert J. Gordon review of Adam Tooze's "Wages of Destruction"

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Robert J. Gordon review of Adam Tooze's "Wages of Destruction"

Post by historygeek2021 » 02 Dec 2021 06:16

I haven't seen any scholarly criticisms of Adam Tooze's Wages of Destruction until I came across this review by Robert J. Gordon in The Journal of Economic History, Vol. 69, No. 1 (Mar., 2009), pp. 312-316.

https://www.jstor.org/stable/40263929?r ... b_contents

Overall the review is fairly neutral, with some insightful criticisms and also points of agreement with Tooze.

Here is an interesting excerpt:
Tooze criticism.png
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Re: Robert J. Gordon review of Adam Tooze's "Wages of Destruction"

Post by TheMarcksPlan » 07 Dec 2021 04:05

historygeek2021 wrote:
02 Dec 2021 06:16
I haven't seen any scholarly criticisms of Adam Tooze's Wages of Destruction until I came across this review by Robert J. Gordon in The Journal of Economic History, Vol. 69, No. 1 (Mar., 2009), pp. 312-316.

https://www.jstor.org/stable/40263929?r ... b_contents

Overall the review is fairly neutral, with some insightful criticisms and also points of agreement with Tooze.

Here is an interesting excerpt:

Tooze criticism.png
Thanks.

I've been so eager to see responses from those Tooze directly addresses - the GSWW crowd (Mueller, Kroener, et. al.), Overy - that I haven't searched the journals all that much for responses to WoD. As I've posted numerous times on this board and elsewhere, there are definitely lacunae and errors in the book. It's disappointing not to see the older heavyweights of this field not respond directly to Tooze. I suspect that, because they aren't trained as economic historians (rather military historians), they're a bit intimidated. They shouldn't be.

I read the entire review and, while helpful, it's also somewhat disappointing. The reviewer accepts at face value Tooze's logistical determinism: that Ostheer had problems supporting its invasion beyond 500km means that it had to be so:
Tooze attributes the German failure to capture Moscow not to Hitler’s mistake of diverting Guderian’s panzer divisions south to Kiev in August 1941, but rather to fundamental limitations of supply. German fuel trucks consumed as much fuel in traversing a
mere 500 kilometers as the amount of fuel they could deliver (similarly, for the same reason, Patton’s army ran out of fuel in eastern France in the fall of 1944). Tooze rightly dismisses planning for Barbarossa as wishful thinking
This is typical of logistical discussions. Most folks are apparently so bored by the topic that they don't get into the nuts and bolts sufficiently to see what was contingent on strategic choices and what was "logistical destiny" or something like that.

The review concludes:
Germany marched into Russia with 3 million men, 2000 tanks, and 700,000 horses. All those horses remain a symbol of the economic backwardness that motivated Germany to go to war and ultimately caused its defeat.
...which is incredibly superficial but of course an economically deterministic narrative plays prominently in the pages of the Journal of Economic History.
Last edited by TheMarcksPlan on 07 Dec 2021 05:21, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Robert J. Gordon review of Adam Tooze's "Wages of Destruction"

Post by TheMarcksPlan » 07 Dec 2021 05:10

Here's a review that identifies a fundamental error in WoD:
Within the German-occupied territories, a total of about 36 million
people were forced to provide their labour for the Nazi dictatorship’s military and armaments efforts; the figure is almost three times as high as that
of the forced labourers and slave labourers within the territory of the Reich
(13.5 million). If Tooze were to write his study today, there would be no way
for him not to address these newly established facts, and he would have to
rethink his claim that, from the start, the Nazi dictatorship’s economic potential was fundamentally inferior to that of the Allied powers. [the review notes the post-WoD development of scholarship on occupied Europe]
"Wages of Destruction? A Reappraisal" by Heinz Roth in the journal Historical Materialism (2014).

This is correct but IMO a bit generous to Tooze. Liberman's Does Conquest Pay? already identified Germany's massive haul from occupied Europe years before WoD (something Tooze demeans) but concededly only at the macro level.

Roth also makes the very good point that Tooze does not identify the continuity of Germany's plutocrats' plans pre- and postwar. The pivot to Adenauer's "economic miracle" was being planned by industrialists as early as 1943, with their interests suitability preserved. To Roth's point I'd add that Germany's military plutocrats were certainly planning a similar pivot that was to involve whitewashing the Wehrmacht's crimes.

These people would serve Hitler or (as junior partners) the great American hegemony (Franz Halder got medals from Hitler and JFK's admin). It was better they were forced into the latter but any narrative that this was inevitable is materially and morally suspect.
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Re: Robert J. Gordon review of Adam Tooze's "Wages of Destruction"

Post by History Learner » 14 Dec 2021 06:09

historygeek2021 wrote:
02 Dec 2021 06:16
I haven't seen any scholarly criticisms of Adam Tooze's Wages of Destruction until I came across this review by Robert J. Gordon in The Journal of Economic History, Vol. 69, No. 1 (Mar., 2009), pp. 312-316.

https://www.jstor.org/stable/40263929?r ... b_contents

Overall the review is fairly neutral, with some insightful criticisms and also points of agreement with Tooze.

Here is an interesting excerpt:

Tooze criticism.png
Would you care if I cited that screenshot elsewhere?

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Re: Robert J. Gordon review of Adam Tooze's "Wages of Destruction"

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 14 Dec 2021 16:48

Tis for posting this

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Re: Robert J. Gordon review of Adam Tooze's "Wages of Destruction"

Post by stg 44 » 24 Dec 2021 22:26

TheMarcksPlan wrote:
07 Dec 2021 04:05
historygeek2021 wrote:
02 Dec 2021 06:16
I haven't seen any scholarly criticisms of Adam Tooze's Wages of Destruction until I came across this review by Robert J. Gordon in The Journal of Economic History, Vol. 69, No. 1 (Mar., 2009), pp. 312-316.

https://www.jstor.org/stable/40263929?r ... b_contents

Overall the review is fairly neutral, with some insightful criticisms and also points of agreement with Tooze.

Here is an interesting excerpt:

Tooze criticism.png
Thanks.

I've been so eager to see responses from those Tooze directly addresses - the GSWW crowd (Mueller, Kroener, et. al.), Overy - that I haven't searched the journals all that much for responses to WoD. As I've posted numerous times on this board and elsewhere, there are definitely lacunae and errors in the book. It's disappointing not to see the older heavyweights of this field not respond directly to Tooze. I suspect that, because they aren't trained as economic historians (rather military historians), they're a bit intimidated. They shouldn't be.

I read the entire review and, while helpful, it's also somewhat disappointing. The reviewer accepts at face value Tooze's logistical determinism: that Ostheer had problems supporting its invasion beyond 500km means that it had to be so:
Tooze attributes the German failure to capture Moscow not to Hitler’s mistake of diverting Guderian’s panzer divisions south to Kiev in August 1941, but rather to fundamental limitations of supply. German fuel trucks consumed as much fuel in traversing a
mere 500 kilometers as the amount of fuel they could deliver (similarly, for the same reason, Patton’s army ran out of fuel in eastern France in the fall of 1944). Tooze rightly dismisses planning for Barbarossa as wishful thinking
This is typical of logistical discussions. Most folks are apparently so bored by the topic that they don't get into the nuts and bolts sufficiently to see what was contingent on strategic choices and what was "logistical destiny" or something like that.

The review concludes:
Germany marched into Russia with 3 million men, 2000 tanks, and 700,000 horses. All those horses remain a symbol of the economic backwardness that motivated Germany to go to war and ultimately caused its defeat.
...which is incredibly superficial but of course an economically deterministic narrative plays prominently in the pages of the Journal of Economic History.
Sadly the profession of history has long been in decline. You can look up the savaging of the works of Omar Bartov on this very forum by Qvist, while the 'professionals' laud everything he's ever written. If you can find an academic critique of his work I will be astonished. Now academia is more about who your friends are and what alliances you can make to get good write ups in journals rather than producing accurate works. Maybe it was always like that, but it seems we don't see the spirited debates and arguments in journals any more.

Tooze, because of his academic influence and 'sharp elbows' has largely managed to scare off anyone who would dare to critique him for fear of their career prospects.

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Re: Robert J. Gordon review of Adam Tooze's "Wages of Destruction"

Post by TheMarcksPlan » 24 Dec 2021 23:23

@stg 44 can you link to Qvist's discussion of Bartov? Can't search via his no-longer existent profile.
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Re: Robert J. Gordon review of Adam Tooze's "Wages of Destruction"

Post by TheMarcksPlan » 25 Dec 2021 09:04

I'm guessing this is the main post?

I find Qvist's arguments convincing. He's not (thank God, I was a little worried at first) suggesting that Bartov exaggerated Wehrmacht crimes. Rather, he's debunking Bartov's linkage of those crimes to a discrete Nazi ideology that, Bartov claims, largely pervaded the Wehrmacht.

Qvist's critique seems largely vindicated by the new book The Virtuous Wehrmacht by Harrisville. The book's main focus is not necessarily to explain Wehrmacht atrocity motivation, rather to explain how Germany - and later much of the West - came to believe in the Clean Wehrmacht myth (Harrisville convincingly argues that the whitewashing began amidst the war). Along the way and in pubic appearances such as on the Youtube channel WW2TV, however, Harrisville has described the Nazi state as offering its soldiers a suite of rationales - some Nazi, some not - that justified the Vernichtungskrieg. The state did so, Harrisville claims, precisely because it was aware that exclusively Nazi rhetoric would not sufficiently motivate all of its soldiers. It's an excellent book and highly recommended.

In the linked Youtube appearance Harrisville also states something I've often thought but never really heard from serious WW2 scholars: the Wehrmacht was in some ways almost morally worse than the Nazis. I'll give my reasons for thinking so...

My attitude towards Hitler and the SS is akin to that I have towards a rabid dog. They've so far lost touch with any concept of humane morality - they've explicitly rejected it in many cases - that I almost have trouble hating them at a visceral level. Just destroy them. I don't want to take this too far because dehumanization is dangerous... The non-Nazi elements of the Wehrmacht, however, remained at least nominally - an in many cases sincerely - attached to Christian and/or humane values (See Harrisville's book for good discussion). Despite these commitments (real or rhetorical) they chose to support an abominable project and directly participated in many/most of the regime's crimes. They weren't brainwashed, deluded, fanatic losers like most of the Nazis. They included highly educated men with seemingly normal moral faculties who often were contemptuous of Nazi thuggery and buffoonery. Yet they chose their paths. It's disgusting in a way that's feels different from evaluating an obviously aberrant personality like Hitler or Himmler.

What ever happened to Qvist, anyway? Is he an author now? Hard to see who he'd be though.
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Re: Robert J. Gordon review of Adam Tooze's "Wages of Destruction"

Post by Politician01 » 25 Dec 2021 19:22

stg 44 wrote:
24 Dec 2021 22:26
Sadly the profession of history has long been in decline. You can look up the savaging of the works of Omar Bartov on this very forum by Qvist, while the 'professionals' laud everything he's ever written. If you can find an academic critique of his work I will be astonished.
Academic Self-Censorship. Left Wing Ideology has intimidated many scholars to post deviating views. And many American/British historians just repeat the US/Britian stronk mantra that has no foundation in reality. I just wonder how Anglos can sing the hymn of praise of Anglo armies - while Dupuy has proven half a century ago that the Germans were much more effective than Anglo armies (1.25 to 1). Had there been 100 German Divisions in Northern France in 1944 - the Anglos would have been defeated within a few months.

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Re: Robert J. Gordon review of Adam Tooze's "Wages of Destruction"

Post by Peter89 » 24 Mar 2022 08:31

TheMarcksPlan wrote:
25 Dec 2021 09:04
What ever happened to Qvist, anyway? Is he an author now? Hard to see who he'd be though.
AFAIK he passed away.
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