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Bielefeld Graduate School
in History and Sociology
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Logo der Einrichtung

Arne Käthner

Establishing Neoliberalism in West-Germany: Transnational Conceptual Struggles about the 'Good Society' in the Post-War Period (1945-1963)

The struggle about the right economic order seen as a key social, political and cultural conflict in postwar Europe presents the starting point of my research project. Not only within the Eastern Bloc, but across the European continent socialist demands and the idea of economic planning were predominant after 1945. Contrary to the prevalent 'Zeitgeist', West Germany surprisingly quickly returned to- and consolidated a market economy in 1948 - decades before the neoliberal doctrine rose in popularity elsewhere and was reestablished as the dominant world view. To expound how it was possible not only to implement liberal policies against the predominant public mood, but also to establish and consolidate a market economy as an incontrovertible ideal order, is a central research objective.

The liberal doctrine, it is presumed, owes its ascendancy to the strong advocacy of neo- respectively ordoliberal scholars, their networks and conceptual frameworks promoted during the first postwar decades. These 'theorists' are seen as major agents of political change, having successfully spread and engraved their convictions among political practitioners and the wider public.

The project is based on a conceptual approach, paying close attention to semantics and the conceptual struggles among neoliberal scholars. The study will accordingly focus on the related- but likewise competing visions of an ideal society developed within national as well as transnational fora and networks. By ways of taking transnational networks into account - comparing and contrasting the debates and the provided lines of reasoning - the project sheds light on the transfer of concepts and the relationship between transnational norm creation and national implementation.

The phd research is conducted in close cooperation with the international collaborative research project "Towards Good Society: Conceptualizing the Social Through the Economic from the 1930s until Today" , managed by Hagen Schulz-Forberg (Aarhus University).

Professor Willibald Steinmetz

Curriculum Vitae

2008 - 2011
BA studies in political/social sciences and English studies at Erfurt University

2011 - 2013
MA in International Studies at Aarhus University in Denmark, MA-thesis: 'The Making of a Normative Order - Concepts and Strategies of Liberal Networks in Post-War Germany'

since 10/2014
Doctoral researcher at the 'Bielefeld Graduate School in History and Sociology' (BGHS), Bielefeld University

02/2015 - 06/2015
Visiting PhD at Aarhus University

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