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Free to Obey by Johann Chapoutot
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Free to Obey

How the Nazis Invented Modern Management

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Narrator Cory J. Herndon

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Translator Steven Rendall
Length 3 hours 59 minutes
Language English
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What if the rules of modern capitalism were written during the Third Reich?


Reinhard Höhn (1904-2000) was a commander of the SS, one of Nazi Germany’s most brilliant legal minds, and an archetype of the fervid technocrats and intellectuals that built the Third Reich. Following Germany’s defeat, after a few years in hiding, he emerged in the early 1950s as the founder and director of a renowned management school in Lower Saxony.


Höhn’s story wouldn’t be very different from that of many other prominent Nazis if not for the fact that a vast number of Germany’s postwar business leaders—more than 600,000 executives—were educated at his management school.


In this fascinating book, Johann Chapoutot, one of France’s most brilliant historians, traces the profound links between Nazism and the principles of modern corporate management, our definitions of success, and a concept of personal freedom that masks rigid hierarchical structures of power and control.


“One of the most gifted European historians of his generation.”—Timothy Snyder, New York Times best-selling author of On Tyranny

Johann Chapoutot teaches Contemporary History at the Sorbonne, Paris. He is the author of The Law of Blood: Thinking and Acting as a Nazi (Belknap Press, 2018) and Greeks, Romans, Germans: How the Nazis Usurped Europe's Classical Past (University of California Press, 2016).

Steven Rendall has translated more than fifty books from French and German, two of which have won major translation prizes. His translations for Europa Editions include Disturbance by Philippe Lançon (2019) and The Tyranny of Algorithms by Miguel Benasayag (2021). He is professor emeritus of Romance Languages at the University of Oregon. He lives in France.

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Reviews

“Eye-opening... French historian Johann Chapoutot traces an astonishing continuity: from the social Darwinism of the Victorian age, to modern supermarket logistics, via the Nazis.”—The Sunday Telegraph

“Refreshingly tart...Free to Obey’s evidence of how Nazism has inspired our work culture is as relevant as the media’s concern for the rise of neo-Nazi groups.”—Bill Marx, The Arts Fuse

“If you have ever detected the acrid smell of sulfur while encountering ‘management speak’ you are not alone.”—Brad, Island Books, Mercer Island, WA

“A groundbreaking essay.”—El País

“A brilliant, stereotype defying study.”—Les Temps

“The extraordinary, harrowing story of the Nazi roots of our work culture.”—Marianne

“Johann Chapoutot is one of the great historians of Nazism. Time and again, his work has shown that the Third Reich was not an accidental aberration of history.”—France Culture

“A fascinating essay about the second life of Reinhard Höhn—from one of the Third Reich’s most brilliant legal minds to the founder of Germany’s leading postwar business school.”—Le Figaro Magazine

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Celebrate our 10th Anniversary with giveaways, merch, and more! Learn more