Dead Man Walking: Current European Interest in the Ordoliberal Tradition

31 Pages Posted: 26 Mar 2018

See all articles by Josef Hien

Josef Hien

University of Milan

Christian Joerges

University of Bremen - Faculty of Law; Hertie School of Governance

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Date Written: 2018


Ordoliberalism became during the years of the financial crisis the target of a European-wide critical campaign. This school of thought is widely perceived as the ideational source of Germany’s crisis politics which has even led to an “ordoliberalisation of Europe”. The essay questions the validity of such assessments. It focuses on two aspects which are widely neglected in current debates. One is the importance of law in the ordoliberal vision of the ordering of economy and society. The second is its cultural and religious background in particular in German Protestantism. The influence of the ordoliberal school on European law, so the essay argues, is overrated in all stages of the integration project. Anglo-American neoliberalism rather than German Ordoliberalism was in the ideational driver seat since the 1980s. In the responses to the financial crisis the ordoliberal commitment to the rule of law gave way to discretionary emergency measures. While the foundational synthesis of economic and legal concepts became indefensible, the cultural underpinnings of the ordoliberal tradition survived and developed a life of their own in particular in German political discourses.

Keywords: Ordoliberalism; Economic cultures; Financial crisis; Ordnungspolitik; Crisis law

Suggested Citation

Hien, Josef and Joerges, Christian, Dead Man Walking: Current European Interest in the Ordoliberal Tradition (2018). EUI Department of Law Research Paper No. 2018/03. Available at SSRN: or

Josef Hien

University of Milan ( email )

Via Festa del Perdono, 7
Milan, 20122

Christian Joerges (Contact Author)

University of Bremen - Faculty of Law ( email )

PO Box 330440
Bremen, 28334

Hertie School of Governance ( email )

Friedrichstraße 180
Berlin, 10117

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