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German Ordoliberalism and the Wrecking of Europe

Josef Hien

Ordoliberalism has made a remarkable comeback in Europe, as a blueprint for harsh austerity politics. Political economists identify the increased export reliance of the German economy as the driver of the ordoliberal agenda. I argue that this is only half of the story. The comeback of ordoliberal politics is also the result of a transformation of Christian Democracy. The party family that has been closest associated with corporatism and with European integration has fundamentally changed its socio-economic doctrine. Christian Democracy has shifted away from its catholic-corporatist roots to embrace neo-protestant positions. Catalyzed by the demise of the largest Catholic Christian Democratic party in Europe, the Italian Democrazia Cristiana, (DC), and by the protestantization on the Christlich Demokratische Union (CDU) following German reunification, ordoliberalism has become the main socio-economic instruction sheet for Europe. As a result, a secularized but still culturally Protestant north inflicts austerity and technocratic governance on a secularizing but still corporatist Catholic south. This escalates the centrifugal tendencies on the European continent because despite secularization the countries in the North and the South still operate according to different cultural micro logics deeply rooted in the remainders of the major Christian denominations. The paper socio-historically traces the shift in European Christian Democratic parties since the 1990s from Catholicism to Protestantism and shows how it impacts on the European socio-economic agenda.

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