Charismatic Authority

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In his piece “Working Towards the Fuhrer”, Ian Kershaw details Adolf Hitler’s regime as being one of “charismatic authority”. Sociologist Max Weber defined this concept as "resting on devotion to the exceptional sanctity, heroism or exemplary character of an individual person, and of the normative patterns or order revealed or ordained by him”. Over the course of his interpretation, Kershaw locks in on the concept that, unlike Stalin’s Russia, Nazi Germany could not exist without Hitler.

To establish his point, Kershaw had to balance between some long held theories regarding the ruling style of Hitler. As noted in class, history has taken to describing Hitler as being uninterested in the daily affairs (particularly related to domestic ones) of Germany, at times being described as a lazy dictator and by Hans Mommsen as a “weak dictator”. While Kershaw’s piece does establish that he agrees with the depiction of Hitler being indifferent about daily affairs, it is clear that he does not support the notion that Hitler’s rule was weak in any way.

To delineate the concept that Hitler was not interested in the daily affairs that typical authoritarian rulers might have, Kershaw uses several examples. Kershaw states “after 1933, as head of government he scarcely put pen to paper himself other than to sign legislation put in front of him by Lammers” (head of the Reich Chancellery). Another excerpt summarizes a day in the life of Hitler, essentially stating that he did not appear before lunch, only to review a few articles, then after lunch he would move on to recreational activities (films, walks) prior to and after dinner. Also included in this excerpt is Hitler’s disdain for paper work and more importantly, bureaucracy.

Based on the above, one might wonder how any argument can be made to show Adolf Hitler to be a strong leader. The answer, according to Kershaw resides in the concept of “Working Towards the Fuhrer”. Beginning with the following quote from one of...
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