(A2-16) Religious Traditions in the Critique of Capitalism in 20th-Century Germany

In the situations of radical change after 1918 and 1945, the issue of a new economic and social order was virulent. Scientific schools influenced by religion emerged as early as the 1920s, and they also got involved in the sociopolitical and politico-economic debates after 1945.

While the denominational roots of ordoliberalism and of “social market economy” have already been investigated more intensely on the part of Protestantism, it still remains that the traditions of religious socialism be come to terms with more thoroughly. After World War I, concepts indebted to the theory of social economy were developed by the Kairos-Kreis, a circle of religious socialists inspired by Paul Tillich. These concepts were introduced into the Godesberg Program of the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) by Gerhard Weisser and into sociopolitical opinions of the Evangelical Church in Germany after 1945. Eduard Heimann, who taught Economics and Christian social ethics in the U.S.A. after 1933, is of particular importance. He worked in Germany again in the 1960s and aimed for a society not controlled by capitalist power but integrated by the Christian religion. What is the correlation between religious orientation and political-economic or sociopolitical theorising in Heimann’s work, and how has it been received after World War II?

In the Weimar Republic, the Catholic spectrum ranged from the radical critique of capitalism to the search for a third way between ‘individualistic liberalism’ and ‘collectivistic socialism’. The authors of a Catholic socialism, mostly forgotten today (Steinbüchel, Michel et al.), need to be reappraised. As to the second school of thought, the theorists of solidarism (Nell-Breuning et al.) have been covered repeatedly. The investigation of the pragmatically oriented social Catholicism, however, represented by the Mönchengladbacher Zentralverein für das katholische Deutschland (Mönchengladbach central association for Catholic Germany), promises new insights. In both the Weimar and the Bonn Republic, Catholic social politicians played an important role in the administration of the ministries of labour and of social affairs. What is the correlation between Catholic social ethics and political-economic and sociopolitical practice here?

Comparative questions are: to what extent are conceptual differences brought about by denominational conditioning? In what way are theological rationales associated with arguments from the laws of nature or the laws of reason and with empirical analyses? How is the modern differentiation of the religious system and the economic system taken into account? Of further interest are the respective understanding of state responsibilities, and the relationship with Marxism, the political parties and the labour movement.

The Project is part of interconnecting platform E Differentiation and De-Differentiation and coordinated project group Religious influences on economic systems and activities.