Dead Man Walking? Current European Interest in the Ordoliberal Tradition

21 Pages Posted: 27 Jul 2018

See all articles by Josef Hien

Josef Hien

University of Milan

Christian Joerges

Hertie School of Governance

Date Written: May 2018


During the years of the financial crisis, ordoliberalism became 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”. This essay questions the validity of such assessments. It focuses on two aspects that 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 has been in the ideational driver's 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.

Suggested Citation

Hien, Josef and Joerges, Christian, Dead Man Walking? Current European Interest in the Ordoliberal Tradition (May 2018). European Law Journal, Vol. 24, Issue 2-3, pp. 142-162, 2018. Available at SSRN: or

Josef Hien (Contact Author)

University of Milan ( email )

Via Festa del Perdono, 7
Milan, 20122

Christian Joerges

Hertie School of Governance ( email )

Friedrichstra├če 180
Berlin, 10117

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