The nature and intentions of Nazi economic policy are once again being hotly contested, although on a new set of terms. No longer is the German bourgeoisie's complicity in the Nazi “seizure of power” or the capitalist underpinnings of Hitler's subsequent aggressions at the center of the discussion. Rather, recent scholarship has chosen to grapple more carefully with the dynamic interplay between economics, race, and social policy in the Third Reich. As David Schoenbaum contended forty years ago, the Third Reich's apotheosization of “national community [Volksgemeinschaft]” led to an array of welfare programs, educational reforms, and “meritocratic” values that may in fact have produced a modern “social revolution.” To be sure, a number of subsequent studies have highlighted longer-term continuities, suggesting that the Nazi Sozialstaat was indebted in some part to the legacy of the Weimar Republic and in other respects presaged the social policies of the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG). Historians likewise continue to debate the relative improvement in living standards experienced by the average German under Hitler. Virtually all scholars agree, however, that, regardless of its efficacy, the underpinnings of Nazi social policy are to be located in the Third Reich's drive to construct a racial utopia at home while securing popular support for wars of conquest abroad.
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