Evaluate the impact of social policies in two authoritarian states.

 Authoritarian regimes have ruled various states at different times, and they have profoundly influenced the lives of their citizens through diverse social policies. This essay seeks to evaluate the impact of social policies in two distinct authoritarian states: Nazi Germany under Adolf Hitler (1933-1945) and the People's Republic of China under Mao Zedong (1949-1976). While both leaders implemented policies with transformative effects on their societies, the nature and consequences of these changes were remarkably different due to the unique historical contexts and leadership philosophies that guided each regime.

In Nazi Germany, Hitler's social policies were aimed primarily at consolidating power, promoting racial purity, and preparing the German nation for war. Historian Richard J. Evans contends that the policies imposed on education, family life, and women's role in society were focused on shaping an ideologically pure Aryan race. For example, the Hitler Youth and the League of German Maidens, institutions that enrolled millions of German children, provided ideological indoctrination and physical training in preparation for war and motherhood, respectively. At the same time, the Law for the Encouragement of Marriage (1933) provided financial incentives for 'racially pure' families to have more children, encapsulating the regime's natalist agenda.

However, the impact of these policies was profoundly destructive for groups deemed 'undesirable'. Historian Ian Kershaw has shown that policies such as the Nuremberg Laws (1935) disenfranchised Jews, leading to their systematic exclusion from society and ultimately their extermination during the Holocaust. Furthermore, compulsory sterilisation laws targeted individuals with hereditary diseases, perpetuating the Nazi's obsession with eugenics and racial purity. In effect, Hitler's social policies fostered an atmosphere of fear and dehumanisation, leading to one of the most atrocious genocides in human history.

Turning our attention to Maoist China, Mao Zedong's social policies can be viewed as instruments for creating a classless society. The agrarian land reform policy (1949-1953) aimed at the redistribution of land from the landlords to the peasants is an evident example. Noted historian Jonathan Spence argues that the implementation of this policy dramatically reduced wealth disparity in rural areas. Additionally, the 'Hundred Flowers Campaign' (1956) encouraged public expression of opinion and criticism, aimed at fostering a more open and critical society, although it later resulted in a brutal backlash against critics during the subsequent 'Anti-Rightist Campaign'.

However, as historian Frank Dikötter points out, the consequences of Mao's policies were often disastrous. The Great Leap Forward (1958-1962), intended to rapidly transform China into a modern industrial society, resulted in the worst famine in history, causing tens of millions of deaths. The Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) resulted in widespread societal upheaval and severe human rights abuses. Mao's social policies, while transformative, often came at an extreme human cost.

The analysis of these two authoritarian states provides insights into the nature of social policy under authoritarian regimes. Both Hitler's Nazi Germany and Mao's China pursued radical social policies that brought transformative changes. However, these changes came at an extreme human cost, particularly for marginalised groups. The legacy of these policies serves as a warning about the potential devastating effects of social engineering by authoritarian regimes. As we continue to study the past, it becomes clear that understanding the complex interplay of historical contexts, leadership philosophies, and societal impacts is vital in unravelling the intricacies of authoritarian social policies.