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00.3 Program for the Study of Germany and Europe

Modell Deutschland as an Interdenominational Compromise

2000 Phillip Manow


Usually, Germany’s social market economy is understood to embody a compromise between a liberal market order and a corporatist welfare state. While this reading of the German case is certainly not entirely wrong, this paper argues that only if we account for the close intellectual correspondence between lutheran Protestantism and economic liberalism on the one hand and between Catholicism and welfare corporatism on the other, can we fully comprehend the nature of the German post-war compromise. In particular, this perspective allows to better explain the anti-liberal undercurrents of Germany’s soziale Marktwirtschaft. It was especially the role which Protestant Ordoliberals ascribed to the state in upholding economic order and market discipline which accounts for the major difference between ‘classic’ and ‘German-style’ economic liberalism. Yet, the postwar economic order did not represent a deliberately struck compromise between the two major Christian denominations. Rather, Germany’s social market economy was the result of the failure of German Protestant Ordoliberals to prevent the reconstruction of the catholic Bismarckian welfare state after the authoritarian solution, which Ordoliberals had endorsed so strongly up until 1936 and from which they had hoped the re-inauguration of Protestant hegemony, had so utterly failed. Since the ordoliberal doctrine up to the present day lacks a clear understanding of the role of the corporatist welfare state within the German political economy, its insights into the functioning logic of German capitalism have remained limit. The paper also claims that accounting for the denominational roots of the postwar compromise allows us to better understand the relationship between consociationalism and corporatism in ‘Modell Deutschland’.