Between Law and Politics: Rethinking the Intellectual Origins of the European Economic Constitution

Project: University of Helsinki Three-Year Research Project

Project Details

Description (abstract)

The prolonged crisis of European economies has spurred new interest in the founding ideas and elements of the European economic model. This concerns particularly the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) of the European Union and its three-stage development from free movement of capital to fiscal harmonization and the creation of the “euro zone” with a single currency. While the crisis itself originated as one of sovereign debt, it has revealed major structural problems within the EMU, challenging traditional ideas of national sovereignty, democratic accountability, and the division between executive and legislative powers.

In research literature, questions concerning the fundamental ideological and institutional premises of European economies are often discussed under the title of “economic constitution”. Here, the concept of constitution refers not only to a legal structure but also to the overall social and political framework that has shaped the post-war economies on both national as well as European-wide level. It answers the basic question in what ways should economy be regulated on the European level, and to what extent should individual nations give away their economic and political sovereignty.

In the debate on the economic constitution of the EU, the concept of ordoliberalism is often used to denote the German-oriented, rule-based approach to economic policy. Traditionally, ordoliberals have been in favor of strong competition laws that seek to regulate the markets by dismantling monopolies, preventing the abuse of controlling market positions, and limiting state aid. Ordo

The aim of this project is to develop a new systematic account of the theoretical and intellectual foundations of ordoliberalism, a school of economics and legal theory that emerged in the 1930s and became influential in the shaping of the post-WWII German economic model. This study challenges conventional interpretations of ordoliberalism that frame it as a reaction to historical events, political ideologies, or competing economic theories. Instead of a purely political or economic doctrine, the project approaches ordoliberalism as a philosophical theory that emerged as a response to the crisis of economics and of scientific reason in general, i.e., to the growing dispersion of individual sciences and the loss of their common foundation. The goal of the project is to explicate and reinterpret those fundamental methodological and conceptual innovations that constituted the unique approach of ordoliberalism, namely, its aim to understand and develop economics as a rule-oriented science with a strong emphasis on constitutional choice and institutional issues.

The main impact of the project is twofold:

(i) It provides a new, innovative understanding of ordoliberalism and its theoretical and methodological foundations with the aim of redefining the basic intellectual framework of this movement.

(ii) By analyzing central concepts and ideas, the study contributes to a critical and historically informed debate on rule-based economic policies. These implications are relevant not only from the viewpoint of economic history and legal theory but also from the perspective of concrete policy-making and democratic accountability.
Short titleBetween Law and Politics
Effective start/end date01/01/2017 → …


  • Helsingin yliopisto: €150,000.00

Fields of Science

  • 517 Political science