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3 - Searching for Order

German Jurists Debate Economic Power, 1919–1949

from Part I - Debating Capitalism

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 January 2022

Moritz Föllmer
Affiliation:
Universiteit van Amsterdam
Pamela E. Swett
Affiliation:
McMaster University, Ontario
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Summary

Jurists played a key role in shaping Germany’s political economy in the first half of the twentieth century. Used to thinking in terms of power and its checks and balances, these lawyers contributed to a drawn-out debate about the relationship between state and markets, private business and public interest. Faced with repeated economic crises and political turmoil, they came to agree that corporate power had reached a level undermining economic liberty and the political sovereign charged with its protection. Walking a fine line between liberal thinking and a preference for regulative state power to protect capitalism from itself, these jurists – here exemplified by Franz Böhm and Heinrich Kronstein – identified with the Republic although political loyalties proved changeable. While Böhm remained in Nazi Germany, rephrasing his thinking in line with the regime’s preferences, Kronstein went into exile, where he found a receptive audience among American trustbusters. Yet, on his return to postwar Germany he teamed up with Böhm once again, thereby boosting the political legitimacy of the emerging ordoliberal school and helping bring the long quest for a tamed capitalism to its conclusion.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2022

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