The Agenda

Jan-Werner Müller on German Ordoliberalism and the European Future

I greatly enjoyed Jan-Werner Müller’s essay on Germany’s evolving sense of its role in Europe. The discussion of Habermas’s aspirations for European federalism and his critics on the left is particularly illuminating, as is his argument that ordoliberalism represents a consensus between the parties of the center-left and the center-right:

A left-wing government would probably not back anything remotely resembling Habermas’s vision of the EU as an anti-neoliberal force. It’s far from clear that an SPD-led administration would even break with Merkel’s anti-Keynesian stance. The German establishment – not just on the right – has long subscribed to the theory of ordoliberalism, which was first elaborated in the 1930s and 1940s and underpinned Germany’s ‘social market economy’ in the 1950s. Ordoliberals thought of themselves as the true neoliberals: they alone had learned from the failures of laissez-faire in the 1920s; they alone had formulated a new vision of liberalism in which a strong state provided the framework for economic competition (and price stability), as well as a social safety net (to prevent socialism). In their eyes, other so-called neoliberals, from the Austrian School or the Chicago School, were really ‘paleoliberals’ stuck in 19th-century orthodoxies about self-correcting markets.

 Müller is always worth reading. 


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