Wilhelm Röpke (economist)

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Wilhelm Röpke (born October 10, 1899 in Schwarmstedt near Hanover , † February 12, 1966 in Geneva ) was a German economist and social philosopher . He is considered one of the intellectual fathers of the social market economy . Röpke had fought the emerging National Socialism. As a result, he lost his professorship for economics in Marburg in 1933 and had to flee the country because of threats to life and limb.


Wilhelm Röpke grew up in a liberal bourgeois country doctor family. After graduating from high school at the Athenaeum in Stade, he began studying law and political science in Göttingen in 1917 . In 1918 he did military service for a short time, later he studied in Tübingen and then in Marburg . There he turned to the study of political economy and received his doctorate in spring 1921 with distinction. He then took up a position as an assistant at the political science seminar with his doctoral supervisor, Prof. Walter Troeltsch . Röpke completed his habilitation in 1922 as a private lecturer in political economy at the University of Marburg and at the age of 24 was appointed as the youngest German professor in Germany to an associate professor at the University of Jena .

This was followed by a stay in the USA as a visiting professor of the Rockefeller Foundation , in 1928 he was appointed to the University of Graz and in 1929 to the Philipps University of Marburg , where he was professor of political economy until 1933. Röpke was also politically active: under the pseudonym "Ulrich Unfried" he wrote articles against the corporatist economic policy ideas of the conservative-revolutionary Tat group around Ferdinand Fried (hence the pseudonym) and Hans Zehrer .

Röpke was critical of the emerging National Socialism. He publicly advocated this. For example, on September 11, 1930, three days before the Reichstag elections, in view of the presumed success of the NSDAP in his home village, he distributed a leaflet entitled "National Socialists as Enemies of the Peasants", written "by a son of Lower Saxony," addressed "to the rural people" . In it he called the NSDAP an "anti-possessive, violent, revolutionary" organization that would destroy the international trust in the prudence and the will to build up the Germans, which is so important for overcoming the crisis, "establish the dictatorship of a party" and "make little fuss." "Once she has come to power." Those who vote for their candidate should not later claim that "they did not know what might result from it."

On December 27, 1932, the Vossische Zeitung published an article by Röpke in which he referred to the provisional leave of absence of the Breslau law professor Ernst Joseph Cohns and others caused by riots among National Socialist students . a. wrote: “The freedom of teaching and intellectual freedom threatened to the extreme by intolerance must be defended to the last. Intolerance of the professors themselves is a betrayal of the idea of ​​the university ”.

On February 8, 1933 nine days after the seizure of power by the Nazi regime, Röpke held under the heading Where are we, where we are driving? gave a lecture at Gustav Stolper's Association for Economic and Political Education in Frankfurt and stated, among other things: “With the seizure of power by the National Socialists, a mass uprising against the fundamental principles of everything we call culture began: a mass uprising against reason, freedom, humanity and against those written and unwritten norms that have emerged over the millennia to enable a highly differentiated human community without degrading people to state slaves. ”Röpke's critical remarks against National Socialism in the public funeral speech for his academic who died on February 23, 1933 Teacher Troeltsch was followed by angry reactions in the Nazi press . Because of his criticism of National Socialism, Röpke was removed from his teaching post by the National Socialist government in April 1933 . In the same year he fled into exile in Turkey . There he taught at the University of Istanbul from autumn 1933 and wrote his most successful book The Study of Economics ; this became the theoretical basis of his later economic and socio-political publications. For the winter semester of 1937/38 Röpke moved to Geneva , where he worked as a professor for international economic issues at the Geneva University Institute for International Studies . One of his doctoral students in Geneva was Carl Zimmerer . In the 1940s he began to write for the Neue Zürcher Zeitung and the Swiss monthly magazine, for which he wrote over 30 articles. In Geneva he put his socio-philosophical trilogy ( present-day social crisis , civitas humana, international order ) on paper, the basic features of which he developed in Istanbul with his faculty colleague Alexander Rustow . In it he described - in agreement with the representatives of the Freiburg School - his ideas of the economic order . Later the conservative influence in Röpke's thinking became stronger; this became clear in the cultural criticism expressed in “Beyond Supply and Demand” (1959) . Röpke wrote in the Swiss monthly magazine in 1964, "that the negroes of South Africa are not only people of an extremely different race, but also belong to a completely different type and level of civilization" (Röpke, 1964, p. 104). That is why the South African government's apartheid policy is completely justified. As a result, Röpke compares the white oppressive regime in South Africa with the Jews in Israel, whose raison d'etre were questioned by the Arabs. Whites in South Africa are in similar distress when faced with a predominance of blacks. Quinn Slobodian's study shows Wilhelm Röpke as a right-wing to reactionary figurehead of neoliberalism, which is about the dismantling of democracy, the preservation of property rights, deregulation and the financialization of the world economy.

Röpke was a founding member of the Mont Pelerin Society (MPS) in April 1947 and its president from 1961 to 1962. In the 1960s there was a dispute between a group around Friedrich August von Hayek and a group around Albert Hunold and Röpke about the future direction of the MPS. As a result, Röpke resigned from the presidency and resigned from the MPS.

He was with Eva (1901–1983), b. Finke, married with whom he had three children.


Law , custom , morality , norms and convictions of values were decisive elements for the economics professor, for which not the market but the political level and the central bank always have to take care. With a “compliant” social , economic and financial policy , the task of which is to protect the weak “beyond the market”, to balance interests, to set the rules of the game and to limit power, Röpke strived for an economic system of “economic humanism ” is also called the “ Third Way ” by him . Röpke stands for a society and politics for which the protection of human rights is of the highest importance. From his point of view, the so-called “individual principle” as an important and elementary core of the market economy must be kept in balance with a well thought-out social and humanity principle. In European politics he warned against too much centralism .

The catchy sentence "The equilibrium price clears the market", which includes an optimal coverage of demand for the whole economy, comes from him. With his work, the liberal economist, who has published more than 800 works in over four decades, is one of those economists who, as scientists and political advisers, have significantly shaped the development in post-war Germany. For Ludwig Erhard he was "in the best sense a champion for the highest values ​​of humanity".


Legend on the street sign in Hanover-Bult : “Wilhelm Röpke [...], promoter of the people's share idea . Co-founder of the Hermann Lindrath Society eV "

Fonts (selection)

  • Crisis and economic situation . Leipzig 1932.
  • The lesson of the economy . Bern 1937. (Haupt, Bern 1994, ISBN 3-8252-1736-1 )
  • The economic elements of the peace problem . Polygraphischer Verlag, Zurich 1937.
  • The present social crisis. Rentsch, Erlenbach ZH 1942. (Haupt, Bern 1979, ISBN 3-528-02870-2 )
  • Civitas Humana. Basic questions of social and economic reform . Zurich 1944. (Haupt, Bern 1979, ISBN 3-258-02871-0 )
  • The German question . Rentsch, Erlenbach ZH 1945.
  • International order. Rentsch, Erlenbach ZH 1945. (Haupt, Bern 1979, ISBN 3-258-02872-9 )
  • The crisis of collectivism . Munich 1947.
  • Measure and center. Rentsch, Erlenbach ZH 1950. (Haupt, Bern 1979, ISBN 3-258-02874-5 )
  • Beyond supply and demand. 1958. (Verlaganstalt des Handwerks, Düsseldorf 2009, ISBN 978-3-86950-036-2 )
  • Against the surf. Rentsch, Erlenbach ZH 1959.
  • Confusion and truth. Rentsch, Erlenbach ZH 1962.
  • Europe in the world today. Röpke's lecture, given in 1962 at the Thun Trade and Industry Association. Schulthess, Zurich 2000.
  • South Africa: Attempt at Appreciation . In: Schweizer Monatshefte, 44/2 (1964), pp. 97–112
  • Fronts of Freedom. Stuttgart 1965.
  • Eva Röpke (Ed.): Letters from Wilhelm Röpke 1934 - 1966. The inner compass. Rentsch, Erlenbach ZH 1976, ISBN 3-7249-0473-8 .
  • The Cicero in the village. Wonderful stories between the city, Schwarmstedt and Lake Geneva. Selected and compiled by Werner Pries, Geiger, Horb 2002, ISBN 3-89570-794-5 .
  • Hans Jörg Hennecke (Ed.): "Market economy is not enough!" Wilhelm Röpke, Collected Essays. Manuscriptum, Leipzig 2009, ISBN 978-3-937801-49-0 .


See also

Web links

Commons : Wilhelm Röpke (economist)  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Hans Jörg Hennecke: Arguing for this state - Wilhelm Röpke and the Federal Republic . In Dominik Geppert , Jens Hacke : Dispute over the state: intellectual debates in the Federal Republic 1960-1980. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 2008, ISBN 9783525367582 , p. 23. Note 1 ; (March 21 and 22, 1918 were the first two days of Operation Michael ).
  2. a b Götz Aly : Wilhelm Röpke against people and leaders , 2015. The lecture of February 8, 1933 is available in printed form under the title “Epochenwende?” In Wilhelm Röpke: Confusion and Truth - Selected Writings , Ernst Rentsch Verlag Erlenbach ZH 1962, P. 105 ff., And in: Fronten der Freiheit , Seewald Verlag 1966, p. 167 ff.
  3. ^ Leonie Breunung, Manfred Walther: The emigration of German legal scholars from 1933 , De Gruyter Saur 2012, ISBN 978-3110258578 , p. 90 ( online )
  4. ^ A b Critical lecture by the Marburg economist Wilhelm Röpke, February 8, 1933. Contemporary history in Hessen. (As of June 1, 2012). In: Landesgeschichtliches Informationssystem Hessen (LAGIS).
  5. ^ Wolfgang Tischner: Wilhelm Röpke . In the directory of persons on the Konrad Adenauer Foundation homepage. [1]
  6. ^ Gerhard Schwarz: Wilhelm Röpke's «liberal center» Outrageous, old-fashioned and yet modern in: NZZ from April 14, 2016
  7. Colonial Liberal? Andrea Franc in the Swiss month of October 2015.
  8. Quinn Slobodian : globalists. The end of empires and the birth of neoliberalism. Suhrkamp, ​​Berlin 2019, ISBN 978-3-518-42903-7 .
  9. ^ Changes in neoliberalism.
  10. ^ Philip Mirowski, Dieter Plehwe (eds.): The Road From Mont Pelerin. 2009, ISBN 978-0-674-03318-4 , p. 19.
  11. Cf. Nils Goldschmidt and Michael Wohlgemuth (eds.): Basic texts on the Freiburg tradition of order economics, Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck (investigations on the theory of order and order policy 50) 2008, pp. 469–474.
  12. Rainer Hank : Debt crisis: Europe's recipe for success is small states , Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung , July 24, 2011.
  13. Philip Plickert: The euro did not unite Europe , Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung , October 21, 2012.
  14. Helmut Zimmermann : Röpkestrasse , in: Die Strasseennamen der Landeshauptstadt Hannover , Verlag Hahnsche Buchhandlung, Hannover 1992, ISBN 3-7752-6120-6 , p. 209.
  15. from this to the Germans about the NS: Be careful not to take your heavy responsibility too lightly, and do not believe that it is enough to describe the National Socialists as a gang of criminals with which you have nothing to do! P. 108.
  16. Review
  17. Review ( French )