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Very late in life in 1943 H.G. Wells wrote an anti-Catholic pamphlet that called, among other things, for the bombing of Rome. ‘Even in comparison with Fascism and the Nazi adventure,’ he wrote,’ Catholicism is a broken and utterly desperate thing, capable only of malignant mischief in our awakening world.’1 This was pretty much the Catholic view of the triumphant modernity professed by Wells in his novels and polemics. Gabriel Almond, an American political scientist wrote, in a 1948 assessment of the post-war European political landscape, that ‘to the Church-backed Christian democratic movements there flocked practically all that part of Western Europe which was neither Marxist, nor ‘liberal’ in the classic meaning of the term.’2 This Christian democratic wave was essentially the product of a period of catharsis and reconstruction which followed the Second World War.

Christian Democracy very quickly became a prominent political force in several European countries, though not in Scandinavia or Great Britain. It became influential in European countries with large Catholic populations, other than Spain and Portugal where totalitarian regimes remained in control. By 1948, Christian democrat political parties had become dominant or politically prominent in Austria, Belgium, France, Italy, the Netherlands and in the Federal Republic of Germany following its establishment in 1949. Ideas and approaches associated with Christian democracy subsequently spread to Latin America and to former Eastern Bloc countries including Poland, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia and Lithuania after these became democracies.3 In western Europe, it filled a political vacuum left by the defeat of totalitarianism. In the immediate post-Second World War era Christian democrats in Germany and elsewhere could present themselves as harbingers of a new democratic era and, with the onset of the Cold War, as enemies of communism. The post-war Christian democratic project was one that supported religious pluralism and Western democratic values. It looked West in opposition to the Soviet-controlled Eastern Bloc.

This chapter examines the convergence of religious, political and economic responses to pre-1945 totalitarianism that came to constitute a distinct world of welfare capitalism. The influence of religious ideas is examined through a focus on the intellectual journey of Jacques Maritain (1882–1973), the most prominent Catholic theologian and political philosopher prior to the Second World War and during its aftermath. He exerted considerable influence on the UN Convention on Human Rights (1948) and on the Basic Law (Constitution) of the West German republic. Maritain gave Christian democracy a malleable language that worked within secular political debates. Human rights, according to Maritain were God-given, but his natural law arguments for these found common ground with those of the Enlightenment. In the soul searching that followed the Nazi occupation of Europe and the Holocaust, Maritain and others who made the case for Christian humanism found wide audiences.4

The chapter also explores how political champions of Christian democracy and of what would become the European Union, like Konrad Adenauer (1876–1967), combined Catholic ideas with liberal economics to create a distinct Christian democratic antidote to what were perceived as the causes of totalitarianism. In the immediate aftermath of the war Christian democratic parties cooperated across borders. By 1950 these formed either national governments or were the largest party in coalition governments in the six countries that became founding members of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) established in 1951–2, and of the European Economic Community (EEC) in 1957–8.5

Adenauer, who served as the West German Chancellor from 1949 to 1963, was born in Cologne in the Rhineland where he became a member of Zentrumspartie in 1906 and mayor of the city from 1917 to 1933. He came into conflict with the Catholic hierarchy when he advocated extending membership of Zentrum to Protestants, thereby diminishing its role as a Catholic confessional party. Adenauer lived in seclusion for much of the Nazi period, although he was imprisoned briefly in 1934 and was sent to a labour camp for some months in 1944, following the assassination attempt on Hitler. After the war, he was reinstated by the Allied occupation forces as Mayor of Cologne and in 1946 he became a founding member of the Christlich-Demokratische Union (Christian Democrat Union).6 The CDU in alliance with the smaller more conservative Christlich-Soziale Union (Christian Social Union) dominated the West German Federal Republic from its establishment in 1949 to 1963.7 It was built on the foundations of Zentrumspartie and several pre-Nazi era conservative and moderate parties supported by Protestants as well as Catholics.8 What bought these disparate elements together and what defined the CDU for its members was its self-image as a Christian party.9 Its main post-war rival was the reconstituted Social Democratic Party (SPD), which did not win power until 1969.

In France, a Christian democratic party, the Mouvement Républican Populaire (MRP), was founded in November 1944 under the chairmanship of Robert Schuman (1886–1963). He was born a German citizen and was educated in Germany because he grew up in Alsace-Lorraine, which had been annexed by Germany after the Franco-Prussian War. After the First World War, the coal-rich Alsace-Lorraine region became part of France. Schuman’s political career was influenced by his troubled geography as well as by a deep Catholic faith. After the war he became the prime minister of France and minister of foreign affairs in the post-war government led by Charles de Gaulle.10 The MRP participated in the provisional government led by de Gaulle in October 1945. In the elections to the second Constituent Assembly in June 1946 it became the biggest party in France, with 28.2 per cent of the votes.11

In Italy Alcide De Gasperi, the leader of Democrazia Cristiana, became prime minister in June 1945. Democrazia Cristiana dominated Italian coalition governments between 1945 and 1993 and until 1981 every prime minister was a member of the party. The Rhineland, Alsace-Lorraine and Trentino where De Gasperi was born, when this was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, were each places with somewhat unsettled relationships with the nation states they had become part of and with the nationalisms that defined these.12 The other three signatories of the treaty, Luxembourg, Belgium and the Netherlands had either internal linguistic or religious differences, or both. To each of these a project of cultural as well as economic cooperation made sense. As put by Tony Judt:

And hailing from the fringes of their own countries, where identities had long been multiple and boundaries fungible, all six members of the new ECSC had only recently seen their sovereignty ignored and trampled on, in war and in occupation: they had little enough sovereignty left to lose. And their common Christian Democratic concern for social cohesion and collective responsibility disposed all of them to feel comfortable with the notion of a transnational ‘High Authority’ exercising executive powers for the common good.13

While in many respects Christian democrats were anti-utopians, a distinct Christian democratic visionary project emerged that was focused on the unification of Europe. This proposed economic union – a common market – as a prelude to political unity. In short, it rebooted the old idea of Christendom into a union that would be held together by free market capitalism rather than God’s glue.

In West Germany, where Christian democracy was strongest, Catholic ideas influenced social policy while economic policies were shaped to a considerable extent by a kind of neoliberalism which advocated the use of legislative regulation to foster competitive markets. Post-war German ‘ordoliberalism’ had much in common with the kinds of neoclassical liberalism promoted by F.A. Hayek, which became hugely influential a few decades later. It influenced the development of the European Economic Community (EEC), the common market that subsequently became the European Union, which permitted the free movement of people as well as free trade and provided reciprocal rights to social protection and health care to member-state citizens.

After the First World War Maritain authored a number of textbooks on philosophy, logic, psychology and metaphysics for use in Catholic colleges and seminaries. He greatly influenced how Thomism, the Catholic natural law philosophy of Thomas Aquinas derived from Aristotle, was taught to seminarians and understood by lay intellectuals. Yet in several books, including The Things that are not Caesar’s (1931), Antisemitism (1939) and Christianisme et démocratie (1943), he developed a political philosophy that that defended democracy and human rights.14 During the 1930s he became a prominent critic of totalitarianism in Catholic majority countries such as Spain and Italy and was intellectually influential among Catholics who opposed the Nazis in Germany. Maritain became a champion of democracy at a time when there were few Catholic majority democracies in the world.15 He portrayed the modern secular democratic state as ultimately more faithful to the principles of Christianity and natural law than the hierarchical corporatism espoused in Quadragesimo Anno (see Chapter 5). Subsequently, he had considerable influence in promoting the acceptance of religious pluralism and human rights by European Catholics and by the papacy.

Maritain was the son of a French non-practising Catholic father and a liberal Protestant mother. In 1901 at the Sorbonne, he met and married Raissa Oumanscoff who was the daughter of a Jewish Russian émigré. Both dedicated themselves to becoming intellectual defenders of the faith against what Raissa later referred to as ‘the illusions of positivism.’16 In her memoir Raissa Maritain recalled that she first met her husband when he organised a protest among French writers and university people in the Sorbonne against the ill-treatment of socialist students in Russia.17 Both were science students, although her future husband had by then completed a master’s degree in philosophy.

At one stage, in a state of existential despair, both contemplated suicide for reasons that fitted the thesis of Le Suicide; étude de sociologie (1897) by Émile Durkheim who taught them at the Sorbonne during their time there as students.18 Their shared sense of dislocation was described by Raissa Maritain as a ‘metaphysical anguish’ that she attributed to a prevailing utilitarianism and scientism. ‘I believe that during these last dark years,’ she wrote in her memoir, ‘in Austria, in Germany, in Italy, in France thousands of suicides have been due to this despair.’19 Durkheim viewed his research on suicide as a means of understanding the ‘causes of the general malaise currently being undergone by European societies.’20 His theory of anomie related the phenomenon of melancholic suicide to the dissolution of traditional society and to the loss of an ontological sense of security and identity rooted in shared religious beliefs.

Maritain and his wife came under the intellectual influence of Henri Bergson, a Sorbonne-based philosopher who pioneered what has come to be known as critical realism and developed a philosophy of personalism that challenged what Bergson argued was the narrowly defined individualism of Enlightenment rationalism. Maritain’s writings on personalism sought to refute secular understandings of human nature. These also made the case for Catholic support for democracy and human rights.21

Maritain’s initial influence among Catholics owed much to his reputation as an intellectual defender of church orthodoxy. Three Reformers (1928), a critique of the Reformation and the Enlightenment which focused on the influence and errors (as Maritain understood these) of Martin Luther, Rene Descartes and Jean Jacques Rousseau, was translated from French to Italian by Giovanni Battista Montini, who in 1963 became Pope Paul VI. Like other Catholic neoscholastics Maritain rejected Protestant and secular conceptions of individualism. As depicted in Three Reformers, the Lutheran Reformation was the great German sin and the Cartesian distinction between body and soul was the great French one.22 What Protestantism represented as a one to one relationship between an individual person and God was, Maritain argued, a hollowed out interior life that detaches the egotistical individual from his true nature: ‘he withdraws from himself all support but his self, he sets up a doctrine that places man rather than God at the centre of his religious life.’23 Descartes put forward a conception of intelligence that turned the human mind in on itself, imposing a gulf between cognition – what the mind was understood to be capable of perceiving – and Being, a conception of a mind and human reasoning that possessed a sublime or supernatural dimension.24

Post-Cartesian philosophy, Maritain insisted could not be reconciled with what the Catholic Church considered ‘true humanism.’ And as for Rousseau, his dogma of natural goodness was a corruption of Christian feeling that located divinity in individual selves.25 Against all this, Maritain maintained that the human personality possessed a supernatural dimension that had come to be rejected by Protestant-derived individualism and rational science.26

The arguments of Three Reformers echoed Durkheim’s sociology of modernity. Modern individuals, Durkheim wrote in The Division of Labour (1893), live in a society that presupposes that individuals are different from one another in which each has ‘a sphere of action which is specific to him, and in consequence an individual personality.’ Individuals depend on other parts of society but are not entirely governed by this.27 What Durkheim called the conscience collective had become an increasingly secular social bond within modern societies. Social bonds, he wrote, in language that could have been used by Maritain, had lost ‘the transcendent character which placed it as if in a sphere superior to human interests.’28 As shared beliefs become less religious in character the individual had become the object of a sort of religion; but this cult of individual dignity, of the individual work ethic or of individual rights nevertheless derived its force from society.29 Except for how Durkheim depicted religion as a ‘social fact’ – something created by people that then impacted upon society – his understanding of the consequences of secularisation was very similar to that put forward by Catholic anti-modernists.30

Maritain began his intellectual career in a milieu that was ambivalent towards liberal democracy. In 1914 he became a professor at the Institut Catholique in Paris. He served as the philosophy editor of Action Française, the newspaper of the similarly named anti-modern political movement founded in 1899 which had protested against the disestablishment of the Catholic Church by the French state in 1905. Action Française sought both the reinstatement of the monarchy and the re-establishment of the Church. It was strongly nationalistic and anti-Semitic and, as such, was quite representative of mainstream French Catholic opinion.

Beginning with a 1921 essay, Maritain emerged as a strong critic of anti-Semitism and other forms of racism.31 In 1926 Maritain broke with Action Française. In a huge volume of subsequent writing he articulated a Christian democratic alternative to the mainstream of anti-modernist political Catholicism that Action Française endorsed. In April 1934 Maritain led a group of five Catholic intellectuals to publish Pour le bien commun (trans. ‘For the Common Good’), an anti-fascist manifesto.32 He came to stand for a ‘militant humanism that excluded all forms of totalitarianism and refuted all justifications of antisemitism.’33

Maritain argued that human beings were enabled (by God) to achieve their natural and supernatural needs as persons and that the capacity to exercise his personal freedom was an exigency of man’s elevated human nature. These freedoms could only be exercised within a social context, and this context was one that changed over time. He argued that secular liberalism was flawed because it did not take enough account of human interdependence. Totalitarianism was contrary to natural law because it did not permit the kinds of personal autonomy human beings required in order to flourish. He argued that authoritarian forms of government which were tolerable before Western man had achieved his present state of personal and cultural development were no longer acceptable.34

Maritain emphasised that the contemporary believer could no longer respond to his world and to God in a medieval way because his religious experience was no longer a medieval experience and that this was in accordance with natural law. Medieval man had lived in the unitary culture of Christendom. Even though he lived in St Thomas’s church and shared St Thomas’s faith, the modern Catholic knew that his Western culture had been accompanied since the Renaissance by changing ways of thinking about individual freedom and consciousness.35 Human nature did not change but human perceptions and understandings could and did evolve.36 What changed included understandings of the rights and entitlements required by people in order to flourish in the modern world.

An interview published in February 1939 in the United States variously addressed Maritain’s criticisms of Franco, Mussolini and Hitler, the horrors of totalitarianism, of fascism and anti-Semitism. To give some examples:

I have no faith in the holy war which is ruining Spain with the help of fascism of Senor Mussolini or the racism of Herr Hitler…

In several of my books, I have very radically criticized Marxism and atheistic communism, but I think that fascism is the other horn of the same devil…

In Nationalist Spain there is at present being manufactured a curious political and war-like ‘Catholicism’ against the spirit of the Gospels, which offers an equally grave danger to genuine Catholicism…

What I mean is that fascism, or more precisely, totalitarianism in all its forms is, first of all, a state of mind. It is the decay of democracy when it is breaking up and when, by virtue of a blind biological instinct, it illusively flies into dictatorship. Totalitarianism is created by the ignorance of the masses, fear and impatience, and the presence of a demagogue in whom the multitude seeks refuge in a sort of psycho-pathological communion.37

In Christianisme et démocratie (1943) – which was dropped by Allied aircraft over Nazi-occupied Europe38 – Maritain criticised the nativity of Enlightenment utopians and rationalists who had separated Europe from its Christian roots. The rationalism of Descartes and the Encyclopaedists and the pseudo-Christian naturalism of Rousseau had promised a kingdom of God on earth procured by ‘the State’ or by ‘the Revolution’ which Hegel’s pantheism taught to deify its own historical movement. He also excoriated the destructive power of the capitalist profit system and the unbridled absolutism of nation states.39 Much of this invective might well have adorned the writings of any typical Catholic anti-modernist intellectual. However, Maritain emphasised that modernity contained the seeds of great potential as well as such great evils. The Enlightenment, it must be accepted, had produced social and political progress which could be built upon:

Science and the scientific conquest of nature, industry and technology, have known wondrous successes – while taking, to our misfortune, the place of wisdom. … Ever since the French Revolution and the effusion of secularized Christian idealism which it provoked in history, the sense of freedom and the sense of social justice have convulsed and vitalized our civilization; and one would need to have the soul of a slave to wish for the destruction of this very sense of freedom and justice on account of the suffering and disorder it may have occasioned.40

Maritain repeatedly argued during and after the Second World War that human rights needed to be grounded in a pluralistic range of religious and ideological value systems, including those of Protestantism and the Enlightenment. He argued that the best of these were compatible with Catholicism and should constitute the basis of a Christian democracy:

It was not given to believers faithful to Catholic dogma but to rationalists to proclaim in France the rights of man and of the citizen, to Puritans to strike the last blow against slavery in America, to atheistic communists to abolish in Russia the absolutism of private profit, although this last process could have been less vitiated by the force of error if it had been performed by Christians. Yet the effort to deliver labour and man from the domination of money is an outgrowth of the currents released in the world by the preaching of the Gospel, such as the effort to abolish servitude and the effort to bring about the recognition of the human person.41

Maritain emphasised how democracy and human rights were compatible with Christian humanism. He argued that one did not have to be a follower of Rousseau to recognise individual rights, or of Marx to recognise economic and social rights.42 It was not necessary to integrate the differing underlying theological, metaphysical and naturalistic premises from which different groups justified their common democratic beliefs and practices. It would be a foolish intolerance to allow only one justification of these.43

Although Maritain was a Thomist, he did not consider any kind of utopian recreation of pre-Enlightenment Christendom to be viable. Catholic thinkers generally rejected secular humanism as a perversion of the ‘true’ Christian kind. Maritain had done so himself in Three Reformers. However, his case for democracy came to be grounded in a conception of integral humanism that did not require the rejection of secular humanism.44 He emphasised that political rights were an aspect of the dignity of the ‘human person’ and, as such, were compatible with the transcendent destiny of all persons.45 This amounted to a formulation of Christian humanism that was opposed to communism, totalitarianism and racism because these sacrificed the dignity of the person.46 He defined this as an ‘integral humanism,’ an account of the human being, that unlike the truncated humanism of the Enlightenment took account of humankind’s proper relationship with God.47

Maritain played a key role in drafting the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights.48 In particular, he influenced the wording of the preamble to the Declaration and of Article 1, which referred to the dignity of the person, and of Article 23, which referred to the right to ‘an existence worthy of human dignity.’ The Declaration defined dignity with reference to an image of the human person as somebody ‘endowed with reason and conscience.’ It emphasised the rights of the individual but portrayed individuals as situated in families, communities, workplaces, associations, societies, cultures, nations and an emerging international order. Article 28 declared that it was in community ‘alone’ that the ‘free and full development of an individual’s personality was possible.’49

The language used by Maritain to denote the rights of the person also found its way into the wording of the post-war constitutions of France, Italy and Germany.50 The parliamentary council responsible for drafting the 1949 German Grundgesetz (trans. Basic Law) was chaired by Adenauer.51 Catholic conceptions of personalism located individual rights with a societal context. These differed from Protestant and liberal conceptions of the sovereign individual and from theories of democracy in the tradition of Hobbes and Rousseau, which legitimised the authority of the state as the will of the people. Article 1 of the Basic Law stated that ‘The dignity of man shall be inviolable. To respect and protect it shall be the duty of all state authority.’ Article 2 declared a right to ‘self-fulfilment’ and to the ‘free development [one’s personality].52 In the immediate post-war period natural law came to influence court decisions. For example, a 1945 ruling determined that the laws which declared that the property of the Jews had become forfeit to the state were incompatible with natural law and were therefore void.53

Between 1947 and 1949 Maritain participated in international conferences of the Christian democratic parties that played a key role in establishing European economic and political cooperation: The Nouvelles Équipes Internationales: Union internationale des democrats-chrétiens (NEI).54 Charles de Gaulle appointed him French ambassador to the Vatican from 1945 to 1948.55 Maritain was subsequently appointed by Pope Paul VI (Giovanni Battista Montini, the translator of Three Reformers) to speak for Catholic lay intellectuals at the closing session of the Second Vatican Council.56 In his encyclical Populorum Progressio (1967) Paul VI referred explicitly to Maritain’s writings on integral humanism and borrowed several passages from these.57

The CDU was founded by members of Zentrum and of Christian trade unions that had clandestinely maintained their political networks during the Nazi period. By the early 1950s almost 20 per cent of CDU members were Protestant. The latter were underrepresented insofar as the population of West Germany was roughly half Catholic and half Protestant. The CDU was most prominent in the historic strongholds of political Catholicism (the Rhineland and Westphalia).58

However, Ludwig Erhard (1897–1977), the second most influential figure within the CDU was a Protestant, as were many of his economic advisers.59 Erhard dominated economic policy in the governments led by Adenauer and served as the Federal Republic’s second Chancellor between 1963 and 1969. He had completed a doctorate in economics in 1925 and worked in an institute for economic research until he was dismissed in 1942 because he refused to join the National Socialist (Nazi) Party. In 1947 he became a professor at the University of Munich and subsequently the director of economic affairs for the British and American-run zones during the post-war occupation. In 1949 he was appointed by Adenauer as Minister of Economic Affairs and he became the political architect of the Soziale Marktwirtschaft (trans., ‘social market economy’), which in turn was credited with bringing about Germany’s post-war ‘economic miracle.’60

In the aftermath of the Third Reich, religious Protestants and Catholics came to blame many of the same ‘evils’ for the rise of Nazism. Both conservative Protestants and Catholics in the CDU were similarly convinced that Nazism’s roots lay in secularism and materialism. Conservative Protestants, such as the Pietists, had come to regard Catholics as natural allies in the ongoing battle against secularism and some had defended Catholic religious rights during the Kulturkampf.61

Notwithstanding all such rhetoric, the CDU, like Zentrum beforehand, pragmatically supported economic modernisation. Rhetoric about re-establishing Germany and Europe on Christian foundations found limited practical application, although anti-materialist virtue signalling was part of Adenauer’s political repertoire. He declared that he considered the accumulation of too much wealth to be pathological. The 1946 Christian Democrat programme stated that moderate property ownership was the essential guarantor of the democratic state and that this must be facilitated for workers.62

Adenauer and the CDU attempted to straddle two very different competing ideas. The Christianisation of post-war West German politics was a symbolic reaction to Nazi totalitarianism in a context where Adenauer and the CDU adopted, for pragmatic reasons, a limited approach to the removal of former Nazis from administrative positions.63 The resurgence of economic liberalism which coexisted with Catholic ideas as part of the social market economy was also portrayed as an antidote to totalitarian government. A degree of conflict between Catholic and Protestant ideas, between corporatism and subsidiarity on one hand, and economic liberalism on the other, played out as the social market economy came into being.64 The social market economy championed by Adenauer and its political architect Ludwig Erhard could hardly be described as anti-materialistic or anti-capitalist. It emphasised the need for well-functioning markets within which competition was seen as a prerequisite for economic efficiency.65 As described by Adenauer in 1965 in his memoirs:

It is a conception linked to the social, an economy in which the outcomes of the work of free and capable men are harmonized into an order bringing maximum economic profit and social justice to all. This system is radically opposed to that of the planned economy we reject, whether its directives derive from centralized or decentralized, official or private bodies. It is likewise opposed to the so-called ‘free economy,’ and it is in order to prevent a return to it that independent control of monopolies is necessary so as to ensure healthy competition.66

The term ‘social market’ was coined by Alfred Müller-Armack, who became one of Erhard’s chief officials. During the early 1930s Müller-Armack and some other members of the Freiburg School had been supporters of the strong state as proposed by Hitler in Mein Kampf and as put into practice by Benito Mussolini in Italy.67 They were less enamoured with the Nazi totalitarianism and during the war developed proposals for a post-war economic order.68 The term, Ordnungstheorie (ordoliberalism) was originated by Walter Eucken, another member of the Freiburg School, to denote a system within which the state ordered the rules of the economy but did not seek to directly manage economic processes.’69

Ordoliberals like Eucken insisted that the economy should be regulated through strong competition laws to prevent economic vested interests from undermining competition. The stated aim was to prevent the re-emergence of the kinds of economic cartels and monopolies that became prevalent in Germany during the late nineteenth century that, it was argued, had facilitated the rise of totalitarianism. Ordoliberals, in essence, opposed the concentration of economic power in private hands or under the control of the state.70

Ordoliberalism advocated a constitutional approach to economic regulation. The concept of Wirtschaftsverfassung (trans. ‘economic constitution’) was used by German economists to describe the legal principles and relations which set established economic rules. The ordoliberal economic constitution was one that permitted freedom of contract but regulated competition by ensuring that group interests did not override individual economic interests. Under the ordoliberal economic constitution, economic rights and freedoms had the same status as traditional political rights and freedoms. Once these were constitutionally established it would not be necessary or possible for the government to micromanage the operations of markets.71 The role of government, ordoliberals argued, was to ensure economic competition through regulation but not to own or directly control industries or even public services.72

Ordoliberalism had much in common with the neoliberalism championed by Hayek. Eucken was the only economist living in Germany to be invited by Hayek to the inaugural meeting of the MPS in April 1947. He was appointed vice-president of the MPS and worked closely with Hayek in building its membership.73 Hayek arranged for the translation of Eucken’s Die Grundlagen der Nationalökonomie (1940) which was published as The Foundations of Economics by Chicago University Press. Here Eucken argued that the dirigisme of the totalitarian state could not be simply replaced by laissez faire and that a new kind of competitive economic order must be deliberately established.74

Correspondence in 1946 between both, following the publication of Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom, highlighted some differences between ordoliberalism and Hayek’s neoclassical liberalism. Eucken’s case for an ordoliberal market economy as set out in his 12 March 1946 letter to Hayek prioritised the need for social order, whereas Hayek foregrounded the importance of individual freedom within a spontaneous order to be brought about by state regulation. Simply put, Hayek maintained that free markets depended on individual autonomy and that the role of the state was to create a spontaneous order and then stand back so that countless individual economic decisions could play out without interference to the maximum benefit of the economy. Eucken inverted this proposition, arguing that economic freedom depended on a state-imposed system of order and that the needs of society required interventions to address perverse aspects of the market which worked to impair free market competition. Freedom, Eucken argued, was secondary to the system of order which protected the needs of society.75 As put by Euchen in his 1940 manifesto:

The problem will not solve itself simply by letting the economic system develop spontaneously. The history of the last century demonstrates this fully. The economic system must be constructed deliberately. The exact problems of economic policy, whether they concern agriculture, trade, credit, monopolies, taxation, corporate law, or bankruptcy law, are all parts of one large problem, which consists in finding out how the economy as a whole must be constructed, along with its rules, both nationally and internationally.76

Eucken was concerned with the perverse influence of monopolies upon markets. Ordoliberalism argued that the big cartels that had built up since the nineteenth century and had flourished under national socialism needed to be broken up. Eucken argued, with the German case in mind, that the big economic players were large conglomerations of factories, trusts and cartels, which tended to become monopolies or oligopolies that closed off competition. The tools for regulating these included corporate law, patent law, trade policy and taxation policy. Simply put, it took a lot of regulation to create modern economies in which competition would flourish.77

Eucken and Hayek differed in their understanding of the relationship between democracy and liberalism. Both believed that socialism was incompatible with democracy. However, Eucken, in a letter to Hayek reflecting on the rise of totalitarianism in Germany, emphasised that democracy did not guarantee freedom.78 For Hayek the biggest threat to the open society was the growth of the state. Ordoliberals were preoccupied with the dangers to social cohesion posed by powerful economic cartels.79

The model of neoliberalism proposed by Hayek was simply not viable in post-war West Germany where social needs that could not be addressed by market forces were all too apparent even to champions of economic liberalism:

Early post-war economists and politicians were acutely aware of those millions of war widows, orphans, mutilated veterans and displaced families as well as some 11 million refugees and expellees from the East. They could not possibly be left to struggle on their own in the harsh competitive winds of a market economy. The Freiburgers accepted not only the Bismarckian and Weimar traditions as part of the country’s history, but also that a welfare infrastructure was indispensable to deal with the post-1945 emergency. These were burdens that both the ‘state’ (taxpayer) and private industry had to bear. To leave the destitute and those in poor health without support was not only inhuman but also a threat to the still precarious political stability of West Germany as a parliamentary-democratic system which guaranteed basic rights.80

Ordoliberalism combined with Catholic thinking about social cohesion within the social market. Christian democracy required that economic rules worked to protect the rights of workers and families and in particular, the entitlement of male breadwinners to wages capable of supporting their families. In its stewardship of the economy, the state was to be a good shepherd rather than the metaphorical night watchman beloved of neoliberals.81

The consensus in support of a social welfare safety net extended beyond the political parties. A 1954 analysis of industrial relations in Germany noted that the major trade union federation – the Deutscher Gewerkschaftsbund (DGB) – had some six million members of around 40 per cent of the workforce.82 The trade union movement reached some similar conclusions to the Freiburg school about the need to break up the power of the economic cartels that dominated the German economy during both world wars, the Great Depression and the Nazi period. Large employers which were closely connected to the Nazi state were discredited. Alfried Krupp and other leading industrialists remained in prison until 1951.83 In many cases, factories were put back into operation by the workers themselves.

The unions had considerable political influence during the reconstruction period when the institutions of the social market were put in place.84 These managed to reintroduce works councils that had been abolished by Hitler. Factory committees in Germany dated back to the First World War period and became part of the German economic system by law in 1920. The post-war system of works councils negotiated work conditions, wages and social insurance. The DGB became a powerful player within the social market economy.85

In Germany the CDU sought to preserve what had come to be viewed as the traditional family – a division of labour produced by the industrial revolution, which segregated the paid work of males from the unpaid care work in the home of women – by ensuring that wages paid to industrial workers were sufficient to support a family. This became an explicit goal of economic and social policy. Social insurance was related to male paid employment and ‘traditional families’ were institutionally promoted through the taxation system. Social protection of female homemakers, such as widows’ pensions for old-age security, derived primarily from their status as wives or daughters of socially insured males. Employment of women, especially that of mothers of young children, was discouraged by an absence of childcare.86 Ideological resistance to measures aimed at enabling women to engage in paid employment remained strong within the CDU into the twenty-first century long after contraception and technology ended much of the need for a gendered division of labour in Western societies.

In the closing pages of The Division of Labour in Society (1893), in the midst of an argument that individual autonomy would flourish best in societies with complex divisions of labour, Émile Durkheim emphasised how the forms of interdependence that brought about organic solidarity could also cross borders. On one hand, there was an ideal: ‘a state of affairs where war would no longer govern international relations, where relationships between societies would be regulated peacefully as are already those between individuals’; on the other, there was the aspiration for an intellectual and moral convergence between broadly similar societies that would unite these. Shared ideals, he argued, would never be enough to bring about such unity. However, an ongoing division of labour which would foster deeper functional interdependence across Europe, by means of the kinds of laws that regulated complex interdependences within nations, might make such unity possible.87

The mostly-Christian democratic political and technocratic architects of what would become the European Union perhaps shared what has been called L’Esprit Européen.88 This had a number of elements. In the immediate aftermath of the war, religious sensibility played a part in the case put forward for democracy, transnational cooperation and human rights.89 However, the main impetus was the need to recover from the war and to prevent the re-emergence of subsequent conflicts. The Christian democratic architects of European integration variously blamed the war on modern nationalism, the rise of authoritarian fascism and the decline of Christian values. As put by Rosario Forlenza:

In the narrative of Christian Democracy, the order of European history and civilisation had been destroyed by modern nationalism and then by its association with the authoritarian political theologies of fascism and Nazism. Furthermore, political Catholicism had long experienced the nation state as a homogenising force threatening communities, from the churches to families. Taming nationalisms and nations, healing the European civil war and overcoming the past through close cooperation beyond the borders of nation states were explicit goals of the Europeanism of Christian Democracy.90

The CDU approach to European integration owed much to German Catholic ideas about the ‘Christian West’ (Das Christliche Abendland).91 The CDU invoked Abendland as the home of anti-materialistic ‘Christian’ ideals and depicted Europe as the battleground where the survival of these would be determined.92 During the immediate postwar period, Abendland evoked a European cultural mission to rebuild a shattered world. As explained by Ronald Granieri:

Contemporary critics might joke that ‘even the Catholics’ did not really believe in that Abendland nonsense (abendlanderei), but for many Germans, especially Catholics in the Union, this vision of a special European cultural identity and mission corresponded with their conception of the Union as a barrier to materialism. The ideology of the Abendland provided a powerful rallying point for Union enthusiasts for European integration.93

By the early twenty-first century the ideals of Abendland seemed part of a distant past, notwithstanding pronouncements by the German-born Pope Benedict XVI (Joseph Ratzinger) that emphasised Europe’s Christian heritage. As a boy, Ratzinger had been conscripted into the Hitler Youth. He was ordained in 1951 and rose to Cardinal as part of the German hierarchy. As Prefect of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (from 1981 until he became Pope in 2005), he was in charge of enforcing doctrinal orthodoxy with the Church. Like Maritain, Ratzinger viewed Europe as a product of both Christianity and the Enlightenment and he wrote that that European identity had developed as a synthesis of faith and reason.94 Unlike Maritain, Ratzinger had never been able to muster enthusiasm for the notion of dialogue with modernity.95 Like earlier generations of Catholic anti-modernists, he viewed the problem of European identity in zero-sum terms as a conflict between Christianity and the Enlightenment. Viewed in such terms, Christianity had become ‘a minority identity’ and Europe had become more or less post-Christian.96 In Europe Today and Tomorrow (2004) Ratzinger reflected that the European Union had based its identity on faith and culture but had become ‘hollowed out’ by secularism.97

Cooperation between the founders of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) was influenced by anxieties about the Cold War. These translated, for Adenauer and the CDU, into the need for Westbindung (to look West). Adenauer’s greatest political achievement, he declared, when asked about this in 1960, was to ally West Germany firmly with the free West. Westbindung, for Adanauer, was both a political and a moral imperative without which Germany would not be able to overcome its Nazi past and become a respected member of the international community. Adenauer argued that European security, political stability and what came to be called the European project benefited from Atlanticism: close alliance with the United States.98

The establishment of the ECSC in 1951 was driven by political and technocratic elites whose mandate came from national governments.99 However, even before the establishment of the Federal Republic of Germany, the CDU, other Christian democratic parties and Catholic intellectuals like Jacques Maritain had debated the future of Europe under the umbrella of the Nouvelles Equipes Internationales (NEI). The NEI was reconstituted as the European Union of Christian Democrats (EUCD) in 1965 and as the European People’s Party (EPP) in 1976.100 The political impetus for the Schuman Plan that proposed the ECSC approach of economic transnationalism came from France (encouraged by the United States). It was designed by Jean Monnet, a French economist who had coordinated the expansion of the Allies’ armaments industries during the war. Monnet was preoccupied with removing future risks of conflict between Germany and France over control of the Ruhr and Lorraine regions that provided the coal and steel needed to forge instruments of war.101 He argued that peace between both countries could be best secured if each yielded sovereignty and pooled control of these industries across frontiers, which ‘would reduce their malign prestige and turn them instead into a guarantee of peace.’102

The expectation of the technocrats was that deeper economic interdependencies and interconnections would translate into deeper communal bonds. However, the European Union never quite managed to foster the kind of intensive imagined sense of shared identity that continues to be found within member nation states. The European Union became ‘a messy contradiction made out of compromises, concessions, accommodations, fudging of issues’ and also of ‘whole periods of stagnation, back-pedalling and outward opposition’ to the aspirations of its strongest champions. For example, many German Christian democrats supported European integration, but others like Erhard were concerned that this might block eventual German reunification.103

In several of his 1979 lectures at the College De France Michel Foucault examined the nature and influence of German ordoliberalism. Its defining goal, he argued, was not to prevent state inference in the economy but to place the state under the supervision of the market.104 In essence, state autonomy was to become subordinated to an economic constitution which applied to governments as well as to economic actors. However, in Germany the influence of ordoliberalism was tempered by other elements of the social market economy model.

European integration proceeded by means of treaties which created and then extended a transnational economic constitution. The Treaty of Rome (1957) established the EEC that was often referred to as the Common Market. From an ordoliberal perspective the Treaty of Rome was close to the ideal of an economic constitution because in setting up the Common Market it appeared to concern exclusively economic rights. Under Article 2 of the Treaty of Rome, the European integration was to be furthered by the establishment of an internal market and the subordination of member state economic policies to EEC rules as interpreted by the European Court of Justice.105

In keeping with the ordoliberal approach European Union member states have ceded considerable autonomy with respect to economic policy.106 The Treaty of Maastricht (1992) – the blueprint for European Monetary Union – stipulated that member states had to implement policy ‘in accordance with the principle of an open market economy with free competition.’ Various rulings of the European Court of Justice have blocked economic protectionism by member states even if, to the dismay ordoliberal purists, European Union economic policy continues to be considerably shaped by political horse-trading.107 The EU has been described as a highly competitive social market economy, one within which an economic constitution coexists with a social policy emphasis on social cohesion, where regulation is managed by supposedly impartial technocrats on the basis of economic rationality, while politically sensitive decisions requiring broad social consensus are still left to member states to thrash out.108


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