Walter Eucken

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Walter Eucken

Walter Eucken (born January 17, 1891 in Jena , † March 20, 1950 in London ) was a German economist . He was a pioneer of the social market economy and founded the Freiburg School of Ordoliberalism .


The villa of the Eucken family in Jena

Walter Eucken grew up in Jena in the house of his parents, the philosopher and Nobel Prize winner for literature Rudolf Eucken and the painter Irene Eucken . One brother was the physical chemist Arnold Eucken .

Eucken studied history , political science , economics and law at the Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel , the Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn and the University of Jena . From 1910 he was a member of the Corps Saxonia Kiel . He completed his studies in 1913 with a dissertation from Hermann Schumacher (1868–1952). After the First World War he became Schumacher's assistant at the Friedrich Wilhelms University in Berlin . At the same time he was the editorial secretary of Schmoller's yearbook . In 1920 he married Edith Erdsiek . Her father came from Westphalia, her mother was an assimilated Jew; Born in Smolensk , she grew up in Berlin and became a writer after her marriage.

In 1921 he completed his habilitation in Berlin. Until 1925 private lecturer , he followed the call of the Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen to a chair in 1925 . In 1927 he moved to the Albert Ludwig University of Freiburg as full professor , where he worked until his death. He died shortly before completing the Principles of Economic Policy while giving a series of lectures at the London School of Economics entitled This Unsuccessful Age (published 1952).


At the beginning of the 1930s, Walter Eucken founded the Freiburg school with the lawyers Franz Böhm and Hans Großmann-Doerth . When, after 1933, a National Socialist university constitution was introduced in Freiburg under the rector Martin Heidegger and the persecution of Jews began in the scientific community, Eucken took an open position. As the historian Bernd Martin states, Eucken became “the real adversary and challenger of the rector who promoted National Socialist university policy”.

In 1936, Eucken gave a series of lectures on freedom of thought called the Battle of Science . After the unsuccessful assassination attempt on July 20, 1944, Walter Eucken, who had been connected to the Goerdeler circle, was interrogated several times by the Gestapo, but was not arrested. Eucken's three friends from the “ Freiburg Circle ”, the economists Adolf Lampe and Constantin von Dietze and the historian Gerhard Ritter , were imprisoned by the Nazi regime and sentenced to death. Only the end of the war saved them from execution.

Eucken was one of the advisors to the French and American military governments; The basic economic policy ideas of the so-called “Freiburg School”, later referred to as ordoliberalism , formed the basis of the reforms with which Ludwig Erhard and Alfred Müller-Armack replaced the initially planned economic administration of the first post-war years.

Eucken was not only concerned with economics, but was also very interested in philosophy and history. The people with whom he communicated spiritually included scientists from various disciplines and artists such as B. Friedrich August von Hayek , Joseph Schumpeter , Werner Heisenberg , August Macke , Ernst Ludwig Kirchner , Max Reger , Hermann Staudinger . When he took part in founding the Mont Pelerin Society in 1947 , he made new contacts, for example with the philosopher Karl Popper .

Of particular importance to him was his friendship with Edmund Husserl , who had a strong influence on the theory of science. He did not only deal critically with ideologies in the economy, but also with the ideologies of power in general. He counted not only the philosophers Friedrich Nietzsche and Martin Heidegger, but also the voluntarism of Martin Luther , the Volonté générale Jean-Jacques Rousseau and the progressive ideology of Henri de Saint-Simons to the traditions of the freedom- hostile irrationalism .

Scientific work

Walter Eucken on a West German postage stamp on his 100th birthday (1991)

Basic idea

At the center of Eucken's work was the question of the connection between power , lack of freedom and poverty . On the basis of this analysis, the framework conditions for an economic order could be determined, which at the same time enables the greatest possible freedom and rational control of the economy. He was convinced that the economic policy activity of the state should be aimed at shaping the economic order and not at steering economic processes . With this thesis, Eucken is considered the founder of ordoliberalism and one of the fathers of the social market economy.

Eucken published his most important work, Fundamentals of Economics, in 1939. Here he formulated his hypothesis of the interdependence of orders : market economy (Eucken preferred the term transport economy ) determines the free constitutional state. Central administration , as it was introduced by the National Socialists in Germany at the time and as it was practiced in the Soviet Union and later in the Eastern European states of the Council for Mutual Economic Cooperation , needs the dictatorship to enforce it. No less important are his 1952 posthumously by his wife Edith Eucken ERDSIEK and his assistant Karl Paul Hensel published principles of economic policy . The standard of textbook knowledge today includes Eucken's distinction between modern economic systems in central administration and transport . For Eucken, however, the criterion for differentiation was not, as is often the case today, the economic activity of the state (see state quota ), but the distribution of economic power. For Eucken, the opposite pole to the central administrative economy, in which a central office has the greatest possible power and the individual is disenfranchised to the greatest possible extent, is not the "free market economy" of laissez-faire . The opposite pole is rather the complete competition in which nobody has the power to steer another economically. Between these two poles there is another type of order, the bequeathed market economy. With this type of order, individual power groups can intervene in the economic freedom of other market participants through pricing policy or lobbying.

An economy left to its own devices according to the laissez-faire principle leads, according to Eucken's conviction, to systematic economic control by power groups. Eucken explains in the preface to the first volume of the ORDO yearbook :

“Whether little or more government activity - this question ignores the essential. It is not a quantitative but a qualitative problem. The state should neither try to control the economic process nor leave the economy to itself: State planning of forms - yes; state planning and control of the economic process - no. Recognizing the difference between form and process and acting accordingly is essential. This is the only way to achieve the goal that not a small minority but all citizens can control the economy via the price mechanism. The only economic order in which this is possible is that of 'full competition'. It can only be realized if all market participants are deprived of the opportunity to change the rules of the market. The state must therefore adopt the market form - i. H. the rules of the game in which business is done - specify. "

- Walter Eucken

Social policy and economic policy

According to Karl Georg Zinn , Alfred Müller-Armack gave “social policy and state economic and structural policy a far greater weight than Eucken, for whom social policy seemed necessary at best as a“ minimal program against extreme abuses ”and economic policy was simply superfluous, even harmful held because an ideal market economy, as he thought he had designed it in his order theory, would no longer have any cyclical booms and crises. ”Correctly understood social policy was for Eucken identical to the“ policy for the order of the economy ”.

In Eucken's conception, economic policy includes responsibility for a high level of employment. For the traditional area of ​​social security against unemployment, as well as accident, health and old age insurance, there is an undisputed socio-political justification.

But beyond competition policy , with the help of a special social policy, “precautions are necessary to fill in gaps and alleviate hardship.” He sees additional need for action by the state, particularly with regard to the labor market constitution , since “labor is not a commodity” and there are differences between material and labor markets exist, "which are to be observed". "Worker protection measures" are necessary to eliminate grievances. In addition to state measures, the trade unions do great "to improve the situation of workers". Although monopoly-like organizations, the trade unions were "certainly called into action by the monopoly overweight of the employers".

Estate and reception

The Eucken estate was housed in the Walter Eucken Institute in 1954 , and his study was also completely preserved. In the 1990s it was dissolved and the estate was handed over to the family "in a disordered and incomplete condition". The Walter Eucken Archive in Frankfurt am Main administered and sorted the estate from 2000 and coordinated the publication of previously unpublished works by Eucken as well as translations into other languages: Eucken’s book “Principles of Economic Policy” was translated into Russian, Polish, Chinese and Korean “Fundamentals of National Economy” in Russian, Chinese, Bulgarian and Portuguese. Since 2013 Eucken's estate has been indexed at the Thuringian University and State Library in Jena. The publication of Eucken's collected works at Mohr Siebeck has been announced for 2020.

Eucken’s grandson Walter Oswalt managed the Eucken Archive until his death in 2018. Niall Bond, Kurt Rudolf Fischer , Vladimir Gutnik, Gerrit Meijer, Carsten Herrmann-Pillath and Octavi Piulats sat on the archive's board of trustees . The archive dealt critically with the reception of Eucken and ordoliberalism by German government policy and the European Commission . Walter Eucken's importance for the social market economy would be emphasized, but his fundamental criticism of economic power would be forgotten. Oswalt also criticized Eucken's liberal market reception (for example by the Walter Eucken Institute or the New Social Market Economy Initiative ) and saw the humanities and social science perspective as underrepresented. The power-free economy as the actual regulatory model of Eucken would mostly be suppressed in a “falsifying short version”. The archive therefore wanted to tie in with the "original research program of constitutional liberalism ('ordoliberalism')" and also published works by other ordoliberals such as Alexander Rustow and Franz Böhm .


  • The formation of associations in maritime shipping (= state and social science research . Issue 172). Altenburg S.-A. 1914, DNB 570150450 (Dissertation University of Bonn 1914, 118 pages).
  • The nitrogen supply of the world: An economic study , Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, Stuttgart 1921, DNB 573933359 (habilitation thesis Universität Berlin 1921, 158 pages).
  • State structural changes and the crisis of capitalism , in: Weltwirtschaftliches Archiv 36 (1932), pp. 297–321.
  • Investigations on capital theory . Fischer, Jena 1935, 2nd edition Mohr, Tübingen 1954.
  • The overcoming of historicism , in: Schmollers Jahrbuch 63 (1938), pp. 63–86.
  • The basics of political economy . Jena 1939 and others
  • Economics - what for? Bad Godesberg 1947 (first as a contribution, 1938); 5th edition expanded to include an afterword by Walter Oswalt , Klett-Cotta / Schäffer-Poeschel , Stuttgart 2005, ISBN 3-608-94131-2 / ISBN 978-3-7910-3008-1 (Schäffer-Poeschel).
  • The competition order and its implementation , in: Ordo 2 (1949), pp. 1-99.
  • Our age of failure. Five lectures on economic policy . Mohr, Tübingen 1951, again under the title: Economic Power and Economic Order . London lectures on economic policy and two contributions on antimonopoly policy. With an afterword by [Eucken's grandson] Walter Oswalt . Lit, Münster 2001, 2nd edition 2009.
  • Economic policy principles . Edited by Edith Eucken-Erdsiek and Karl Paul Hensel . With an afterword by Edgar Salin . Francke, Bern and Mohr, Tübingen 1952 and others.


  • with Franz Böhm and Hans Großmann-Doerth : Order of the economy. (Individual publications) 1937 ff.
  • with Franz Böhm: ORDO . Yearbook for the Order of Economy and Society , Vol. 1. Godesberg 1948, continued to this day.


Web links

Commons : Walter Eucken  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Kösener Corpslisten 1930, 82 , 181
  2. Habilitation thesis: The nitrogen supply of the world
  3. Bernd Martin: Martin Heidegger and National Socialism - the historical framework. In: Martin Heidegger and the 'Third Reich'. A compendium . Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, Darmstadt 1989, pp. 14–50, here p. 26.
  4. ^ Karl Georg Zinn: Social market economy. Idea, development and policy of the federal German economic system p. 25 (PDF; 364 kB)
  5. ^ Gerhard D. Kleinhenz, Welfare State in the Conception of the Social Market Economy in: Yearbooks for Economics and Statistics, Special Issue Social State Germany, Lucius and Lucius, ISBN 978-3828200487 , pages 406, 407
  6. ^ Walter Eucken: Principles of economic policy . Rowohlt, Reinbek 1965, p. 183.
  7. ^ Walter Eucken: Principles of economic policy . Rowohlt, Reinbek 1965, p. 185.
  8. ^ Walter Eucken: Principles of economic policy . Rowohlt, Reinbek 1965, p. 185.
  9. ^ Walter Oswalt : Liberal opposition to the Nazi state. On the development of Walter Eucken's social theory. In: Nils Goldschmidt: Economy, Politics and Freedom. Freiburg economist and the resistance; Investigations on the theory of order and policy, vol. 48. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2005, pp. 315–353. Quote from page 318.
  10. ^ Sandra Schmidt, Adnan Ay: The Walter Eucken Bibliography. Edition Walter Eucken Archive, Volume 1, LIT Verlag, ISBN 3-8258-5356-X .
  11. ^ Walter Eucken: Economic power and economic order - London lectures on economic policy and two contributions on antimonopoly policy. Edited by the Walter Eucken Archive. With an afterword by Walter Oswalt. LIT Verlag Berlin, 2001, ISBN 978-3-8258-4804-0 .
  12. ^ Walter Eucken: Ordnungspolitik. Edited by Walter Oswalt. Lit-Verlag, 1999. ISBN 3-8258-4056-5 .
  13. Walter Eucken: Osnovnye Principy ėkonomičeskoj politiki. Russian translation by L. Kozlv and Ju. Kukolev; Ed .: L. Zedilin and C. Herrmann-Pillath, 1995, Moscow, ISBN 5-01-004045-X .
  14. Walter Eucken: Podstawy Polityki gospodarczej, Wydawnictwo Poznańskie, Poznań, 2005, ISBN 978-8-3717-7216-0 .
  15. ^ Shanghai People's Publishing House, Shanghai 2000, ISBN 7-208-03730-2 .
  16. Walter Eucken: Kyŏngje-chŏngch'aek UI Wolli, Seoul Minŭmsa, 1996, ISBN 89-374-4098-9 .
  17. Walter Eucken: Osnovy nat︠s︡ional'noĭ ekonomii, translated by W. Rubtzov, A. Tschepurenko; Ed .: W. Avtonomov, W. Gutnik, C. Herrmann-Pillath; Ekonomika, 1996, Moscow, ISBN 5-282-01849-7 .
  18. ^ Walter Eucken: Guomin-jingjixue-jichu, translated by Zhuo Wu Pei; Shang Wu Verlag, Beijing, 1995, ISBN 7-100-01781-5 .
  19. ^ Walter Eucken: Osnovi na nazionalnata ikonomia, translated by Boriana Arnandova, Ed .: Vesselina Tzankova; LIK Publishing House, Sofia, 2000, ISBN 954-607-421-7 .
  20. ^ Walter Eucken: Os fundamentos da economia política, translated by ML Gameiro dos Santos; Edição da Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian, 1998, Lisbon, ISBN 972-31-0813-5 .
  21. Eucken estate comes to Jena ,, September 12, 2013, accessed on October 2, 2018.
  22. a b Walter Oswalt receives the Alfred Müller-Armack Medal of Merit , Action Group Social Market Economy , May 6, 2018.
  23. ^ Walter Eucken, Gesammelte Schriften , Mohr Siebeck , accessed on September 25, 2018.
  24. Micha Brumlik: A Committed: Walter Oswalt, formative figure of the early Frankfurt Greens, is dead , the daily newspaper , August 2, 2018.
  25. ^ Board of Trustees of the Walter Eucken Archive ( Memento from May 21, 2016 in the Internet Archive ). Archived on May 22, 2016 from the Walter Eucken Archive website. Retrieved October 2, 2018.
  26. Debate: Ordoliberalism - Alternative to Neoliberalism? ( Memento from May 22, 2016 in the Internet Archive ) Archived on May 22, 2016 from the website of the Walter Eucken Archive. Retrieved October 2, 2018.
  27. Jakob Augstein: The controversial legacy of Walter Euckens. Süddeutsche Zeitung of March 30, 1994, p. 34.
  28. ^ Walter Oswalt: The false friends of the open society. in: Walter Eucken: Economic Power and Economic Order, Lit-Verlag 2012.
  29. Moritz Peter Haarmann: Economy - Power - Citizen Consciousness: Walter Euckens Contribution to Socio-Economic Education. Springer VS, Wiesbaden, ISBN 978-3-658-11606-4 , pp. 77, 104.
  30. Moritz Peter Haarmann: Economy - Power - Citizen Consciousness: Walter Euckens Contribution to Socio-Economic Education. Springer VS, Wiesbaden, ISBN 978-3-658-11606-4 , pp. 77, 105.
  31. ^ The Walter Eucken Archive: the goals ( memento from July 23, 2016 in the Internet Archive ). Archived on July 23, 2016 from the website of the Walter Eucken Archive. Retrieved October 2, 2018.
  32. Alexander Riistow: The religion of the market economy. Lit-Verlag, ISBN 978-3-8258-4848-4 .
  33. ^ Franz Böhm: Disempowerment through competition. Lit-Verlag, ISBN 978-3-8258-6436-1 .