Freedom and the Strong State: On German Ordoliberalism

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Ordoliberalism is the theory behind the German social market economy. Its theoretical stance developed in the context of the economic crisis and political turmoil of the Weimar Republic in the late 1920s. It is premised on the strong state as the locus of liberal governance, and holds that economic freedom derives from political authority. In the context of the crisis of neoliberal political economy and austerity, and debates about the resurgence of the state vis-à-vis the economy, the article introduces the ordoliberal argument that the free economy presupposes the exercise of strong state authority, and that economic liberty is a practice of liberal governance. This practice is fundamentally one of social policy to secure the sociological and ethical preconditions of free markets. The study of ordoliberalism brings to the fore a tradition of a state-centric neoliberalism, one that says that economic freedom is ordered freedom, one that argues that the strong state is the political form of free markets, and one that conceives of competition and enterprise as a political task.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)633-656
Number of pages24
JournalNew Political Economy
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2012

Cite this