Does “Mein Kampf” Contain A Business Model?

Digital Journal, May 2, 2009.

Consigned to the literary graveyard by many European countries, Adolf Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” is being widely read by India’s young business school students.

What’s lumped together, in the West, in the same category as “The Al Qaeda Reader,” by Raymond Ibrahim—as a treatise of terror—is being regarded in (some of) the East as “a management guide in the mold of Spencer Johnson’s “Who Moved My Cheese?” reports The Telegraph.

In the last six months, its sales have soared to 10,000, in New Delhi alone.

The book—an autobiographical account of Adolf Hitler and an ideological manifesto of Nazism—has enjoyed widespread popularity in India since the days of the British Raj, especially among right-wing nationalist political parties and Hindutva-inspired social outfits.

Indian nationalist leaders like Madhav Golwalkar and V.D. Savarkar looked to the “Mein Kampf” as a source of inspiration for the formation of an independent India, inhabited exclusively by the Hindu race.

In 1992, shortly before anti-Muslims riots rocked India’s financial hub Mumbai, Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray—whose fundamentalist Hindu organization allegedly masterminded the communal violence—declared: “If you take “Mein Kampf” and if you remove the word Jew and put in the word, “Muslim,” that’s what I believe in.”

A doyen of India’s political landscape and former leader of India’s largest opposition party, the Bharatiya Janata Party, L.K. Advani, made numerous references to the “Mein Kampf” in his prison diaries, penned while in incarceration during Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s regime.

Off and on, during varying periods of India’s political history, beginning with the freedom struggle, Hitler’s controversial tome has found favor with the radicals.

But that it has, now, also become a hit with India’s youth begs the question: What hidden jewels could a book such the “Mein Kampf” possibly hold?

A tale of trials and tribulations (“Mein Kampf” is German for “My Struggle”) and a grandiose vision for global domination, the so-called “Nazi bible” could be inspirational to some.

It may be argued that if a man of gnomic stature and depression could not only devise a strategy of political conquest, then surely, India’s brightest business minds could dream of leading the South Asian tiger on a glorious path of economic imperialism.

A successful business model does lurk in the pages of the “Mein Kampf.” Perhaps.

If, as the Japanese proverb goes, “business is war,” then, why not, instead, study Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War”? This book, incidentally, is still a crucial component of undergraduate curriculum in major B-schools in the U.S. and Canada.

At least, this 2nd century B.C. manual on war has an underlying spiritual message and carries far less political baggage than the “Mein Kampf” does.

I have to wonder why management schools don’t replace books on war with books on peace. After all, isn’t the idea of fashioning the minds of future business leaders in the crucibles of war-like models a little atavistic in the 21st century?

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