The Man behind Europe: Alfred Müller-Armack, the Nazi-neoliberal part 2

Post-War Biography

In the previous post on Alfred Müller-Armack, I briefly outlined the context of his and other ordoliberal views’ proximity to Nazism (which was not only conceptual, but also institutional).

But, there are several things that set Armack’s specific work apart from that of his colleagues. Namely, unlike other ordoliberals, Armack was the only one who remained a full member of the Nazi Party all the way up until 1945. Also, it is during his SS-fostered discussions on the Nazi Großraumwritschaft (Greater economic space; see the first post for literature) that Armack began to develop his European perspective (which was not shared by other ordoliberals automatically). With this in mind, his post-war endeavors, which marked his political career in Germany and abroad, become clearer.

Along with the revival of parliamentary politics in West Germany and after the war, Armack would become an adviser to Ludwig Erhard (and the then newly-founded CDU party). Erhard would play a crucial role in spreading Armack’s ideas, although he was much closer to Röpke (both Erhard and Röpke were students of Franz Oppenheimer, who considered himself a “liberal socialist” and held “the first chair of Sociology in Germany” (cf. Wieggershaus, p. 23); other students included the Frankfurt School’s economist Friedrich Pollock, the Marxist theorist Fritz Stenberg, the theologist Paul Tillich, and the philosopher Theodor Adorno). Hence, with the election of Ludwig Erhard as director of the Bizonal economic administration (1948) and then the establishment of the Federal Republic in 1949 and Ludwig Erhard’s appointment as Minister of the economy, the way for the placement of ordoliberal economists in key government positions was open (cf. The Origins of Non-liberal Capitalism, p. 83).

As Armack noted in his memoirs,

“the transition of the Federal Republic itself to currency reform and to abolition of controls in 1948 was a step that was initiated by only a small group of economists and a leading economic politician, Ludwig Erhard, and it was only their success that was able to win over public opinion and MP’s to a positive viewpoint.”

Around the same time, along with Friedrich Hayek, Ludwig Von Mises, Wilhelm Röpke and Milton Friedman, Armack became part of the Mont Pèlerin Society in 1947. The Mont Pèlerin Society was itself a key political group, which financed the creation of neoliberal think-tanks worldwide (on that, cf. Philip Mirowski‘s now classical study), and one of the cradles of neoliberalism (in my view, neoliberalism doesn’t have a single birthplace, but only gradually came together – one could also name the Walter Lippmann Colloquium, the Geneva School, and, later, the Washington Concensus, among others, although the term itself was already used in the XIX century by Charles Gide and other French economists).

However, most importantly, from 1952-1963, Armack worked as the chief economist of the newly-founded policy department (Grundsatzabteilung) at the Federal Ministry of Economics under Ludwig Erhard. As already mentioned, unlike other strands of ordoliberalism[1], Armack’s own strand was pro-European, and this made him suitable for the function of Secretary of State for European problems, an office which he took from 1958-1963. It is in this capacity that Armack helped draft the Treaty of Rome – a founding document of the European Union. The work on the building of what would become the present-day European Union, did not stop at the Treaty of Rome, however. On the contrary,

before the Treaty of Rome, [Armack and other ordoliberals helped in] laying down the rules for the common market. Consider, for example, the philosophy underlying the prohibition of State Aid or the approach towards competition policy.). This orientation is deeply enshrined in the Treaty of Maastricht (from 1992) and more particularly in the Stability and Growth Pact (1997) with its insistence on rules for limiting deficits and debts. (Thorsten Beck, Hans-Helmut Kotz (2017), “Ordoliberalism, a German oddity?“, CePR Press, p. 11)

It was during this time that Armack worked on “re-building” Europe, before he left both the position of State Secretary and his work at the Federal Ministry of Economics, in order to work as a consultant for several big companies.

The Concept of Social Market Economy

Along with the revival of German politics, what emerged after the war was also Armack’s most well known concept – the idea of a social market economy. Its conceptual and political development is part and parcel of both Armack’s and Germany’s post-war politics. Namely, after the Second World War, it was by no means obvious that Armack’s political career would continue – let alone take off. The idea of reviving liberalism, the root cause of the Great Depression, was off the table after the end of the Second World War. In fact, the motor for the revival of the Western German economy was actually social democracy, and a laissez-faire economy could not be simply brought back to life. So,

“the Americans and especially the British had initially considered Kurt Schumacher’s Social Democratic Party (SPD), as well as the left wing of the new Christian Democratic Union (CDU), the representatives of Germany’s dormant democratic tradition. As Social Democrats enjoyed great influence among the occupying authorities, there existed much momentum for the introduction of the “economic democracy” the SPD had long espoused. Such an economic democracy would have encompassed a decentralized economic planning system, the institutionalization of equal labor influence over the governance of the economy, and, most important, the socialization (that is, the public ownership) of heavy industry.” (James C. Van Hook (2004), Rebuilding Germany: The Creation of the Social Market Economy, 1945-1957p. 5)

Thus, after the war, the political position of both organized labor and business elites had changed. The role of organized labor and social democracy was considerably bolstered by the sympathies of the occupation authorities, most notably in the British zone ( more on that: Gerhard Lehmbruch (2001), “The Institutional Embedding of Market Economies: The German “ Model” and Its Impact on Japan”, in The Origins of Non-liberal CapitalismWolfgang Streeck and Kozo Yamamura (eds.), Cornell University Press, London, p. 78). Moreover, this was at the time when German socialists still advocated the socialization of the means of productions as their party objective. Once faced with the prospects of a revival of capitalist market economy, they even called for Ludwig Erhard’s resignation in August 1948 . And, soon enough, their resistance escalated. In November there was a general strike against Erhard’s economic policy and a call for a return to a state-controlled economy. This lasted until prices stabilized in December 1948. Starting from industrial products and food, the price controls were slowly but completely abolished, ending with coal and electricity prices in 1952, and the removal of exchange controls for foreign trade in 1953. 

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This is the context, in which ordoliberalism had to fight. In the situation where the position of labor was becoming stronger by the day (even more so in contrast to its austere reality during the Nazi times), and even backed up by the support of Western powers, the German elites had to seek a new way out.  This is what made the Social market economy appear as an attractive program and a solution. In contrast to ‘old Liberals’, the neo-liberals do not wish to restore a laissez-faire economy; their goal was a new kind of synthesis. So goes the standard narrative of ordoliberalism: by chosing the “third path”, between a planned and a market economy, a new form of economy was envisaged. It called for a “strong state” to contain the self-undermining power of the market and preserve its dynamic elements. And, in its “classical” form (as in Eucken’s constitutive principles), it primarily sought to protect the price mechanism from distortions, but in a way that is different from the 19th century laissez-faire capitalism. In a nutshell, as one commentator put it, ordoliberalism was

about rules, rigor, and consistency, while the southern emphasis is on the need for flexibility, adaptability, and innovation. It is Kant versus Machiavelli.”

This is why the question of how the social market economy emerged to become the dominant concept behind the German economy as a whole, becomes even more important, since it was not obvious to its contemporaries. And, it is also here that Armack played a key role.

Namely, unlike other ordoliberals, Armack allowed for the existence of the redistributional welfare state for as long as it did not disturb the functioning of the market and even

defended government regulation of utilities, transport, agriculture, and the credit system. Whereas the ordoliberal Walter Eucken was highly skeptical of a policy of full employment, Müller-Armack resolutely supported it. The new doctrine thus legitimized regulating the economy as long as regulation could be presented as being nondiscretionary and hence “in conformity with the market” (Gerhard Lehmbruch (2001), “The Institutional Embedding of Market Economies: The German “ Model” and Its Impact on Japan”, in The Origins of Non-liberal CapitalismWolfgang Streeck and Kozo Yamamura (eds.), Cornell University Press, London, p. 84).

It is this strand of ordoliberalism that became the dominant one, after the war. Since 1949, it designated an overall approach to economic policy in Germany. Namely,

In 1949 the guiding principles of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) as laid down in Dusseldorf brought the term to public attention. Since then it has become the foundation of the politico-economic programme of the coalition parties in the first and second Federal Parliaments. (Alfred Müller-Armack, “The Meaning of the Social Market Economy”, Germany’s Social Market Economy: Origins and Evolution, Alan Peacock, Hans Willgerodt (eds.), 1982, Palgrave Macmillan, p. 82)

The concept of a “Social market economy” rallied around it diverging political groups, whose goal was to, basically, outdo the socialists. It did not promise a welfare state as such – but both welfare and competition, and consciously stressed the need to embed the markets within a society. Again, unlike other ordoliberals, Armack did not only think in terms of efficiency. He did not have a ready-made “economic program” or think only in terms of economic dynamics, but was conscious of the fact that markets have to be put on par and, indeed, intertwined with a society’s social fabric, and  this is reflected in his vision of “Social market economy”. 

As he put it in his seminal book called “Wirtschaftslenkung und Marktwirtschaft” (Economic planning and market economy),

“It was a serious mistake of the past century to consider the market structure to be a sufficient overall order of life. It was overlooked how much the spiritual substance still present in the economic life of the 19th century came from the Christian / religious heritage, which in the rationalized economic society was jeopardized and questioned by the forces of economic thought and competition.” (Alfred Müller-Armack, Wirtschaftslenkung und Marktwirtschaft, Kastell (1990), p. 113).

The explicit role of religion – mentioned in the quotation above – was, for example, part an parcel of  his emphasis on engraving the markets in Germany’s social structure, where Catholicism was to be taken seriously – as much as the questions of wealth redistribution and full employment. This is explained by the fact that, for the German CDU (Christian Democratic Union), including the left-wing social Christians meant guarding an important part of their constituency, the need of which Armack, himself a devout catholic, was very much conscious of. Hence, Armack’s pursuit of the alleged goal of the Social market economy: “social irenics” – a term he derived from Greek εἰρήνη, in order to designate the moderation and reconciliation of opposing forces and differences within society – or “social humanism”. As Daniel Dietzfelbinger put it,

“Müller-Armack wants social humanism on the condition of freedom, which does not only follow economic criteria, but in which man can be realized in his basic anthropological constitution – openness to spirit and nature. This is only possible if the basic elements of the two opposing economic concepts are integrated into an economic order: the freedom-minded thought of liberalism and the socially-minded thought of socialism (soziale Gedanke des Sozialismus). According to Müller-Armack, both elements have their origins in the Christian world view, whereby an obligation arises: An economic order does not feed itself solely from economic criteria, but it needs – quote – “to the greatest extent an intellectual formation that creates, as it were, the overall framework in which the competitive instrument is used in addition to economic security, and socio-political structuring of the order of the economy is required.” Daniel Dietzfelbinger, Die evangelischen Wurzeln der Sozialen Marktwirtschaft Genese und ethische Bedeutung einer sozioökonomischen Ordnungstheorie, Evangelische Akademie, Bad Boll, 2011, p. 7).

The Pacification of Resistance

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“There must be order.”. Source: Ordoliberalism and The Myth of “Laissez Faire”.

However, this concept did not fall from the skies. For it to take root in the political “soil”,  other alternatives to the German economy had to be subdued. And those were precisely democratic socialism and democratic planning (cf. Gerhard Lehmbruch (2001), “The Institutional Embedding of Market Economies: The German “ Model” and Its Impact on Japan”, in The Origins of Non-liberal CapitalismWolfgang Streeck and Kozo Yamamura (eds.), Cornell University Press, London, p. 82).

One could additionally blame the cold war and the emergence of the rivalry between the Eastern and Western blocs: with the intensification of said rivalry, the prospects of a planned economy became increasingly faint. But, that is not all. It was already during this time the revival of a market economy was being sold to labor leaders and social-democrats. Although the openness of the SPD towards the equal representation of labor and capital (rather than the abolishing of “organized capitalism” in Germany) has its roots in Rudolf Hilferding and Fritz Naphtali (for this, cf.: James C. Van Hook (2004), Rebuilding Germany: The Creation of the Social Market Economy, 1945-1957, p. 255), there were several important steps to be taken in order to domesticate market competition, before the SPD fully endorsed the concept of social market economy. First, Theodor Blank (Defence Minister of Germany from 1955 to 1956 and as Minister of Labour and Social Affairs from 1957 to 1965) began to support it; after that, the former Social Democratic minister of the economy (1967-1971) – and former member of Ludwig Erhard’s Scientific Council, Karl Schiller, proclaimed a synthesis of “Keynesianism and the Freiburger Imperativ”. Ultimately, the SPD abandoned planning altogether; this happened when it rejected its former aim – the socialization of the means of production – and encouraged state protection of private property at its Godesberg Congress in 1959[2].

So, at the end of the day, both the SPD and left-wing parts of the CDU were in favor of accepting the idea of a marked-based welfare state (Gerhard Lehmbruch (2001), “The Institutional Embedding of Market Economies: The German “ Model” and Its Impact on Japan”, in The Origins of Non-liberal CapitalismWolfgang Streeck and Kozo Yamamura (eds.), Cornell University Press, London, p. 83). At its core, by offering the reconciliation of opposing interests within the liberal camps, along with a pseudo-socialist promise of “welfare”, the social market economy made democratic socialism appear superfluous, and succeeded in its pacification. For, not only did it slowly pacify its democratic-socialist opposition, it also pacified the socialist tendencies within the nascent Christian Democratic Union – the present-day CDU:

Strict market liberals as well as the Sozialausschüsse (the “social committees” of Christian labor unionists) of the CDU left wing could likewise refer to this flexible discourse. It was hence peculiarly suitable for the purpose of integrating a political party with a socially heterogeneous clientele, such as the CDU.” (Gerhard Lehmbruch (2001), “The Institutional Embedding of Market Economies: The German “ Model” and Its Impact on Japan”, in The Origins of Non-liberal CapitalismWolfgang Streeck and Kozo Yamamura (eds.), Cornell University Press, London, p. 85). 

This is why Müller-Armack emphasized a

conceptually-overarching concept of the social market economy as an economic style that applies to everyone. The four social currents or groups that Müller-Armack considered to be intellectually relevant at the time – namely Catholicism, Protestantism, evolutionist socialism and liberalism – are systematically reflected in the socially positive elements and the [economic] style-based idea of social market economy. (Daniel Dietzfelbinger, Die evangelischen Wurzeln der Sozialen Marktwirtschaft Genese und ethische Bedeutung einer sozioökonomischen Ordnungstheorie, Evangelische Akademie, Bad Boll, 2011, p. 7).

At its core, the idea of “Social market economy” involved a synthesis of opposites. At its best, the idea of a post-war “Social market economy” is of a reconciliatory nature; at its worst, its development was part and parcel of the pacification of alternatives, or, at least, socialist resistance.

Social Cohesion and Ideology

Although contemporary neoliberalism has completely shed away all things “social”, including the last remnants of the welfare states, it would be wrong to say that it does not aim at social cohesion. On the contrary, this was one of the original intentions of Armack’s, and, one could argue, what Armack learned from Marxism. This forms a background to his own ideological approach after the war. For, as he put it in his Nazi-book (full translation below):
“the only way to overcome the theory of ideology is by means of its own historical conditions. Before the Marxist theory of ideology is overcome in a positive way, this situation cannot be eliminated. Merely opposing it does not help here.”
It is in this “overcoming” of “Marxist theory of ideology”, within history – meaning the practical overcoming of Marxism – that Armack sees the true value of the “new national movement” (opening lines, translation below). And, if one asks: “Where does this change occur?”, even if it is led by such a national movement? Armack gives the answer (Ibid.):
This change is not limited to the idea of the state alone. Even the ideas of Christianity, of science and of art, all of which were in danger of succumbing to the corrosion of destructive historicism, now find a basis on which it becomes possible to affirm their central idea unabated once again.
And, according to Armack, this changes the very reality of ideas as such: no longer do we have to reduce man by relating him to such trifles like material objectivity or social or psychological analyses;
what this [new] historical idealism sees in the idea is an interpretive power in which history gathers to form anew. [An] Idea as a historical power is more than the mere guiding goal of idealism or the mechanical proceeding of development in Marxism. It is this historical power that Georges Sorel had in mind when he called political ideas myths and taught that historical changes are tied to the emergence of such a myth.

It is probably this passage that Werner Bonefeld meant when he said:

Akin to Sorel’s conception of myth as a means of social integration, he [Alfred Müller-Armack] advocated the ideas of nation, Volk, and movement as the ‘metaphysical glue’ that is supposed to hold capitalist society together. After 1945, he turned to Catholicism as the ‘ideological’ means of social cohesion. (Werner Bonefeld, The Strong State and the Free Economy, Rownam & Littlefield, New York, 2017, p. 10)

Thus, Armack was already doing his best in order to discredit both socialism and Marxism well before the War and his future political career. But, to go back to the ordoliberals, one could ask: was Armack alone? While they did not publish full-blown Nazi publications, in praise of the total state, the ordoliberals have used the exact same language and ideas found in Armack’s Nazi text. And one does not have to go far to search for an analogy. One could just consider their founding documents. In the Ordo Manifesto of 1936, Franz Böhm, Walter Eucken and Hans Grossmann-Doerth, argue that one of the cornerstones of ordoliberalism consists in:

viewing individual economic questions as constituent parts of a greater whole. Since all sectors of the economy are closely interconnected, this fundamental approach is the only one which does justice to the subject. The treatment of all practical politico-legal and politico-economic questions must be keyed to the idea of the economic constitution. In this way relativist instability and fatalist acceptance of facts are overcome. manifest str. 23

This was published only 1 year after the Nazi Party rejected publishing a second edition of Armack’s Nazi book, and 3 years after the first edition. The “relativist instability”, mentioned above, means a sort of “legal relativism”, and the flexibility of the laws which were made for “economic power groups” (monopolies) and was dealt with in the preceding chapter of the Manifesto. By the “fatalist acceptance of facts”, the authors specifically meant Marxism, to whose critique they also devoted one preceding chapter, called “Karl Marx and Fatalism”, in which they specifically criticize the idea that there is such a thing as a “law of development” in capitalism, and “Karl Marx, who was only able to arrive at his fatalist doctrine of development by regarding technico-economic development as the sole determinant of all historical progress.” (The Ordo Manifesto of 1936, in: Alan Peacock, Hans Willgerodt (eds.), 1982, Palgrave Macmillan, p. 19)[3].  Such vehement anti-Marxism would continue on after the war: it was shared, not only among Armack and the ordoliberals, but also across the political spectrum of German post-war elites, as well, and was particularly to be found in the upper ranks of the CDU (including Konrad Adenauer’s attempt to form an “anti-Marxist majority”, within it. On this, see: James C. Van Hook (2004), Rebuilding Germany: The Creation of the Social Market Economy, 1945-1957, p. 149). In Armack’s book, both concepts (fatalism and relativism) are present, and are extended to include various social sciences – from sociology to psychology, and, of course, Marxism:

One starts to see [things] sociologically. Ideas become understood as expressions of certain historical situations; they were relativized by drives, interests and the will to power of social groups. One [soon] gets intoxicated with such thoughts and shapes them into a system. The age of pragmatism begins. [In this age] ideas are held as relevant only insofar as they are useful for life: one believes one can understand ideas biologically or, as in psychoanalysis, as expressions and sublimations of life instincts. In the historical materialism of Marx, this point of view becomes an effective political weapon. All religious, scientific, artistic, and political ideas are nothing else than derivations of economic facts. (full translation below)

And, what’s the problem with such a gloomy state of affairs? Why write against it? For the authors of the Manifesto, “Such a fundamental attitude makes it seem pointless or foolish to pit oneself against the relentless course of events or to stand up for an idea.” That idea – in the Manifesto – being a fixed law of orders and an economic constitution. But, where the Manifesto ended, questioning Marx in 1936: “How can the intellect shape events when it accepts them as inevitable?”, Armack answered again, in 1933: “Today’s national movement brings forth a new form of idealism.” – so goes the opening of the chapter below. And, with it, it goes on to add, “The audacity to put forward ideas returns, especially in the contemplation of history.”. This “audacity” is possible only thanks to “National Socialism, Italian fascism and the otherwise wholly different Action Française” (p. 32), as Armack put it clearly in the chapters preceding the one translated below.

Anti-Marxism: the Eternal Recurrence

There is a strong continuity – if there ever was one – between Armack’s work during the Nazi times and his work during the post-Nazi times.  Above, we mentioned that the idea of a post-war “Social market economy” was of a reconciliatory nature. Of course, it seems a long road from Armack’s pre-war Nazi texts to his post-war emphasis on reconciliation. But, if one could draw a conclusion, and if there is anything that connects both his post-war and pre-war endeavours, and it could be summed up in a sentence: anti-Marxism.

From his early writings until his late engagements, Armack’s stance towards Marxism was constant: it must be overcome, not in ideas, but in practice. The barrier for the overcoming of Marxism has changed overtime – from the “national movement” to the “Social market economy” – but, the need for Marxism’s overcoming – had not.

The idea of a “Social market economy” was not just a product of class-compromise after the War (as Gerhard Lehmbruch has argued), but, through its overcoming of both liberalism and socialism, Armack was doing as he had done before the War. This predates what Elmar Altvater called the “neoliberal counter-revolution” by at least 50 years – and it broadens its scope, since it was not aimed at Keynes alone, but against Marxism, as well. This also offers a supplementary background to anyone interested in Foucault’s analysis of the ordoliberals in his lectures on the Birth of Biopolitics (Foucault, because of his emphasis on the – then almost contemporary – post-war reconstruction of Germany, omits the pro-Nazi stances within the earlier writing phase of the ordoliberals). In this”power of an idea”, built, among other things, in order to pacify Marxism, Armack’s own political work gathers a new meaning, as a conceptual counter-revolution, and it was already deployed when and where it was needed most – in 1933 Berlin.

 

Aleksandar Matković

 

Here is the chapter (and its translation):

IV. Die Überwindung des historischen Materialismus in der neuen Geschichtshaltung IV. The overcoming of historical materialism in the new conception of history
Die heutige nationale Bewegung bringt eine neue Form des Idealismus. Der frühere Begriff davon war wesentlich unpolitisch. Idealist war, wer den Glauben hatte, daß sich in der Geschichte zuletzt doch die Idee gegen alle Widerstände der Wirklichkeit durchsetzen wird. Idealismus war des Vertrauen, daß die Ideen nicht nur innere Geltung besitzen, sondern überdies noch die Kraft in der Geschichte zu siegen. Die Ideen als Prinzipien eines überirdischen Reiches des objektiven Geistes sind der Geschichte und damit auch der Setzung durch den Menschen entzogen. Sie entstammen nicht seiner geistigen Kraft und bedürfen nicht seines Einsatzes zu ihrem endgültigen Siege. Im Liberalismus wird dieser passive Glaube, daß sich die Welt aus sich zum besten entwickeln werde, zur öffentlichen Meinung. Today’s national movement brings forth a new form of idealism. The earlier concept of idealism was essentially unpolitical: an idealist was someone who believed that, in history, ideas ultimately prevail against all the obstacles of reality. Idealism was the belief that not only do ideas have their [own] inner validity, but that they also possess the force to triumph in history. Ideas as the principles of a supernatural realm of the objective spirit are withdrawn from history and [therefore] not even subject to being posited by men. They do not stem from his mental strength and do not require his commitment to their ultimate victory. In liberalism, this passive belief that the world, on its own, will develop into its best, becomes public opinion.
Dieser Idealismus ist den härteren Geschichtsanschauungen des 19. Jahrhunderts mit Recht zum Opfer gefallen. Man sah, wie sehr auch die scheinbar der Geschichte entrückten Ideen dem Wandel unterworfen sind. Mehr noch: man entdeckte erschreckt, wie tief die Entstehung von Ideen mit höchst realen, ja primitiven Kräften verstrickt ist. Man beginnt soziologisch zu sehen. Die Ideen werden als Ausdruck bestimmter geschichtlicher Situationen begriffen, man relativiert sie auf Triebrichtungen, Interessen und den Machtwillen sozialer Gruppen. Man berauscht sich an diesem Gedanken und formt ihn zum System. Es beginnt die Zeit des Pragmatismus, der die Ideen nur noch für Lebensnützlichkeiten hält, man glaubt sie biologisch verstehen zu können oder, wie dies in der Psychoanalyse geschieht, als Ausdrucksformen und Sublimierungen der Lebenstriebe. Im historischen Materialismus Marxens wird diese Betrachtungsform zur wirksamen politischen Waffe. Alle religiösen, wissenschaftlichen, künstlerischen und politischen Ideen sind nichts anderes als Ableitungen der ökonomischen Tatsachen. This idealism has rightly fallen prey to the harder perspectives on history of the nineteenth century. One saw how much ideas – seemingly far away from history – are subject to change. Even more: one discovered how deeply the origin of ideas was enmeshed with very real, even primitive forces – an alarming finding. One starts to see [things] sociologically. Ideas become understood as expressions of certain historical situations; they were relativized by drives, interests and the will to power of social groups. One [soon] gets intoxicated with such thoughts and shapes them into a system. The age of pragmatism begins. [In this age] ideas are held as relevant only insofar as they are useful for life: one believes one can understand ideas biologically or, as in psychoanalysis, as expressions and sublimations of life instincts. In the historical materialism of Marx, this point of view becomes an effective political weapon. All religious, scientific, artistic, and political ideas are nothing else than derivations of economic facts.
Die wahre Kraft der Geschichte liegt in den Klasseninteressen und Produktionsverhältnissen. Alles weitere ist Überbau, Ideologie, d.h. Idee, der keine echte innere Geltung zukommt. Diese Ansicht wurde auch dort übernommen, wo man ihre politischen Ziele nicht gerade teilte. Für die müde Stimmung der Nachkriegsjahre war dieser soziologische „Idealismus“ just das rechte. Aus der Idee als Spannung und Widerspruch zur Wirklichkeit, wird die Idee als kühl konstatierte Entsprechung zu bestimmten sozialen und wirtschaftlichen Zuständen. Die Lage war doppelt verzweifelt, als die Ideologienlehre ja eine Form des geschichtlichen Sehens ist, auf das man nie und nimmer verzichten möchte. Ein Zurück zum alten Idealismus kommt nicht mehr in Frage, sondern nur eine Überwindung der Ideologienlehre aus ihren eigenen historistischen Voraussetzungen. Ehe die marxistische Ideologienlehre nicht positiv überwunden ist, kann diese Situation nicht beseitigt werden. Die bloße Opposition hilft hier nicht. The true power of history lies in the class interests and relations of production. Everything else is superstructure, ideology, that is, ideas that have no real inner validity. This view was adopted even where its political goals were not shared: for the exhausted mood of the post-war years, this sociological “idealism” was quite fitting. From an idea as a tension and contradiction to reality, an idea becomes a coldly acknowledged function of certain social and economic conditions. This situation was desperate in a double sense since the theory of ideology was a way to look at history that one could never [simply] relinquish. Any return to the old idealism was out of the question; on the contrary, the only way to overcome the theory of ideology is by means of its own historical conditions. Before the Marxist theory of ideology is overcome in a positive way, this situation cannot be eliminated. Merely opposing it does not help here.
Die Ideologienlehre setzt sich aus zwei Thesen zusammen, die gesondert betrachtet werden müssen. Ihre erste: Der Mensch ist an einen sozialen Standort gebunden, er lebt in einer Gruppe, die ihn voll umschließt, ihm ihre Art zu werten und die Dinge zu sehen aufzwingt. Alles geschichtliche Leben ist so in sich verschlossen, daß ihm jeder Zugang zu einer objektiven Wahrheit verfagt ist. Ihre Zweite: Wahrheit, wenn sie überhaupt bestünde, kann nur eine überzeitliche, jenseits aller Geschichte stehende sein. Da der Mensch an die Perspektiven seiner Klasse gebunden ist, ist alles, was er an Werten und Ideen erfährt, Ideologie. The theory of ideology is composed of two theses, which must be considered separately. Its first thesis is that the human being is bound to a [certain] social location: it lives in a group that fully encircles him, imposes on him its way of valuing and seeing things. All historical life is so enclosed in itself that it is denied any access to an objective truth. Its second thesis is that truth, if it exists at all, can only be timeless, beyond all history. Since man is bound to the perspectives of his class, all he experiences in values and ideas is ideology.
Man hat versucht, die Ideologienlehre dadurch zu widerlegen, daß man sie in einen Selbstwiderspruch hineintrieb. Wenn alles Ideologie, das heißt: falsches Bewußtsein ist, muß auch die Ideologienlehre schon Ideologie sein, nämlich eine des Marxismus selbst. Damit bringt man gewiß diese destruktive Lehre in eine verdiente Schwierigkeit, kommt aber selbst noch nicht ins Freie, denn die beiden Thesen, in denen scheinbar nur die historische Betrachtungsweise formuliert wird, bleiben unwiderlegt und zwingen einen selbst erneut, in dieser Richtung zu gehen. An attempt has been made to disprove the theory of ideology by driving it into self-contradiction. If everything is ideology – meaning false consciousness – then the theory of ideology must also be an ideology, namely one of Marxism itself. This certainly causes some deserved trouble for this destructive doctrine, but it does not overcome it, for the two theses [mentioned above], in which, apparently, only the historical approach is formulated, remain unrefuted and force one to take up this direction again.
Es wurde schon oben darauf hingewiesen, daß die geschichtliche Gebundenheit des Menschen nicht verglichen werden darf mit der Bindung des Tieres an seine Umwelt. Der Mensch ist zwar geschichtlich, d. h. er vermag nie sich in eine Gestaltung zu bringen, die nicht selbst wider geschichtlich wäre. Aber in dieser allgemeinsten Bindung an die Geschichtlichkeit, ist die an die einzelne Gruppe und Klasse eben geschichtlicher Art und als solche stets im Modus möglichen Andersseins gegeben. Gewiß hat er nicht die Fähigkeit, überhaupt aus der Einordnung in Gruppen herauszutreten, die Bindung an die einzelne Gruppe ist jedoch so, daß er in der Möglichkeit der Opposition den Raum gewinnt, entweder in eine andere Gruppe überzutreten oder doch wenigstens auch die Inhalte der anderen Gruppe mit denen der eigenen zu vergleichen. Diese Form der Bindung an einzelne Gruppen zwingt den Menschen, nicht kritiklos die ihm durch seine Gruppe übermitteln Ideen zu übernehmen. Sie lägt ihm einem Raum möglicher Freiheit, indem er sich äußerlich oder auch nur innerlich von der Gebundenheit etwa an seine Klasse zu lösen vermag. Hier hält jedoch die Ideologienlehre ihre zweite These bereit. Wozu müßt ihm diese Freiheit von der Urteilsperspektive seiner Gruppe, die Wahrheit ist ihm gleichwohl unerreichbar, denn als geschichtliches Wesen kommt er nie zu einem überzeitlichen Ideenbereich. Hier präsentiert der Marxismus nochmals den alten rationalistischen Wahrheitsbegriff der Aufklärung. Freilich ein überzeitlicher Maßstab, um wahr und falsch zu scheiden, fehlt dem Menschen. Aber aus dem Boden seiner jetzt endlich voll begriffenen Geschichtlichkeit entsteht ihm ein neuer Wahrheitsbegriff. Das Geistige ist selbst geschichtlicher Prozeß, das in der Geschichte sich die Maßstabe erringt, an denen es sich mißt. Die geistige Entwicklung, zu der uns die Geschichte die Freiheit gibt, ist nicht eine Annäherung an ein vorgegebenes Reich objektiver Gehalte, sie ist vielmehr das ohne eine solche Vorversicherung übernommene Wagnis in Glauben an den Geist, an seiner Verwirklichung zu schaffen[1]. It has already been pointed out above that the historical confinement of man must not be compared with the attachment of an animal to its environment. Man is historical, that is, he is never able to bring himself into a form that would not be historical. But in this most general attachment to historicity, he is attached to the individual group and class in a historical way and as such always in the mode of possible otherness. Of course, he does not have the ability to extricate himself from grouping, but his attachment to an individual group is such that, in the possibility of opposition, he gains space either to transfer to another group, or at least to compare the contents of another group to those of his own. This form of attachment to individual groups compels man not to uncritically adopt the ideas transmitted to him by his group. It leaves him a space of possible freedom, as he is able to disengage from the bondage, for example, to his class, either externally or only internally. Here, however, the theory of ideology holds its second thesis ready at hand. For what does he need this freedom from the judgment perspective of his group? The truth is unattainable to him, for as a historical being he never comes to a sphere of ideas outside of time. Here again Marxism presents the old rationalistic concept of truth [taken] from the Enlightenment. To be sure, man lacks any timeless standard for distinguishing between what is true and what is false. But from the ground of his ultimately fully understood historicity, a new concept of truth arises for him. The mind is a historical process itself. It achieves the standard by which it measures itself [only] in history. Intellectual development, for which history gives us freedom, is not an approximation to a given realm of objective content; it is rather a venture trusting that the mind will work towards its realization[2].

 

Ich sagte oben, daß ein neuer historisch gestimmter Idealismus im Wachsen ist. Für diesen Geschichtsaktivismus ist Idee überhaupt nicht eine an ungeschichtlichen Maßstäben meßbare Geltung. Idee ist hier die sich vorwagende Deutung, die der Geschichte vorangestellt wird, um in ihr das zu verwirklichen, was nie und nirgends war. Diese neue Geschichtshaltung  sieht den Sinn der Geschichte viel tiefer als der frühere Idealismus, für den sie die Verwirklichung dessen war, was stets und immer bestand. Der Geschichtsidealismus sieht in der Idee die deutende Kraft, in der Geschichte sich zu neuer Gestaltung sammelt. Idee als geschichtliche Macht ist mehr als das bloße Leitziel des Idealismus oder das mechanische Auslaufen der Entwicklung im Marxismus. Diese geschichtsbildende Kraft ist es, die Georges Sorel meinte, wenn er politische Ideen Mythen nannte und lehrte, daß historische Wandlungen an die Enstehung eines solchen Mythos gebunden sind. Above, I mentioned that a new historically-minded idealism is emerging. And for this historical activism, an idea is not any value to be measured against the scales of any unhistorical standards at all. Here, idea is the daring meaning that precedes history in order to realize, in history, that which has nowhere and never been realized before. This new attitude towards history sees the meaning of history as something much deeper than the earlier idealism, for which it was the realization of what exists and has always existed. [On the contrary,] what this [new] historical idealism sees in the idea is an interpretive power in which history gathers to form anew. [An] Idea as a historical power is more than the mere guiding goal of idealism or the mechanical proceeding of development in Marxism. It is this historical power that Georges Sorel had in mind when he called political ideas myths and taught that historical changes are tied to the emergence of such a myth.
Die Zeit historischer Relativierung liegt hinter uns. Gerade in der Besinnung auf die Geschichte kehrt der Mut zur Idee zurück. Diese Wendung ist nicht nur auf die Staatsidee begrenzt. Auch die Ideen des Christentums, der Wissenschaft und der Kunst, die alle in Gefahr waren, der Zersetzung des destruktiven Historismus zu erliegen, finden einen Boden vor, auf dem es wieder möglich wird, ihre zentrale Idee ungebrochen zu bejahen. The time of historical relativization is behind us. The audacity to put forward ideas returns, especially in the contemplation of history. This change is not limited to the idea of the state alone. Even the ideas of Christianity, of science and of art, all of which were in danger of succumbing to the corrosion of destructive historicism, now find a basis on which it becomes possible to affirm their central idea unabated once again.
Dieser Geschichstidealismus bricht mit dem 19. Jahrhundert, aber er ist kein Zurück, keine ängstliche Reaktion, die jede Verbindung abweist. So fremd ihm die destruktive Richtung ist, so wenig hat er mit dem früheren Idealismus zu tun. Nicht nur daß er den sozialen Gedanken mitübernahm, auch das soziologische Denken dieses Jahrhunderts, das Wissen um die höchst realen Voraussetzungen von Massenbewegungen, die richtige Einschätzung der realen Macht für die Durchsetzung von Ideen ist in ihn eingegangen. Man ist hellsichtig geworden für die konkreten Bedingungen der Bildung und Bewahrung geistiger Gehalte, für die Wichtigkeit von Volk, Boden und politischer Freiheit. Es entsteht eine geschlossene neue Haltung, die eines realistischen Idealismus, deren beide Elemente sich nicht mehr stören, sondern die Stoßkraft des Ganzen erhöhen. This historical idealism breaks with the nineteenth century. But it is not a backward, anxious reaction that rejects any connection [with it]. Just as destructive tendencies are foreign to it, it also has little to do with earlier idealism. Not only did it take over social thought, but also the sociological thinking of this century, the knowledge of the very real prerequisites of mass movements and the correct assessment of real power for the realization of ideas. One has become watchful for the concrete conditions of the formation and preservation of intellectual contents, for the importance of people, land and political freedom. The result is a complete and new attitude, that of a realistic idealism, whose two elements don’t disturb each other anymore, but rather increase the momentum of the whole.

ARMACK’S FOOTNOTES

[1] Das Ideologischwerden geschichtlicher Gehalte ist nicht durch die
Seinsgebundenheit bedingt. Es ist vielmehr zu begreifen als eine Existenzgefahr des Geschichtlichen überhaupt…. Zur die geschichtliche Deutung kann, mit dem ganzen Wagnis belastet, das sie auf sich nehmen
muß, versuchen, die echte Idee in der Geschichte von der Ideologie zu
scheiden. (S. 191.) Die Ansätze der Ideologienlehre lösen sich so auf…. Verfehlt an ihr war zu glauben, (mit der Seinsgebundenheit) werde alles Wissen zur Ideologie, und dann zu versuchen, den eigenen Standpunkt auf verschlungenen Wegen vor der Relativierung zu retten. Ihr fehler war, nicht zu sehen, wie sehr jede Ideologie erst durch die Möglichkeit echter Erkentniss fundiert ist, und daß auch die Seinsbindung des Menschen ihm keineswegs die Möglichkeit zu einem sich von sich distanzierenden Erkennen
nimmt (S. 191).
[2] 7) The ideological becoming of historical content is not conditioned through being connected. Rather, it is to be understood through the danger to the existence of history in general… For historical interpretation, burdened with all the risk it has to take, tries to separate the real idea in history from ideology (P. 191.). The approaches of the theory of ideology dissolve themselves in this way… It was wrong to believe that (with its attachment to being) all knowledge becomes ideology, and then to try to save one’s own point of view from relativization, in a winding way. Their mistake was in their failure to see how much every ideology is premised on the possibility of real knowledge, and that man’s attachment to being does not in any way deprive him of the ability to recognize himself (p. 191).

[In the footnotes troughout his entire book, Armack quotes his “Entwicklungsgesetze des Kapitalismus; ökonomische, geschichtstheoretische und soziologische Studien zur modernen Wirtschaftsverfassung” (The laws of capitalism’s development; economic, historical-theoretical and sociological studies on the modern economic constitution), pubished in Berlin in 1932, by Junker und Dünnhaupt, the same publisher that published his present book.]

German translation: Aleksandar Matković

With great thanks to Annemarie Ickler and Franziska Singer for checking and correcting the English translation!

FOOTNOTES TO THE MAIN TEXT

[1] Unlike Armack, other ordoliberals rallied behind the GATT agreement, in order to criticize the newly emerging roots of what is today the European Union. They viewed the European economic community as an “extension of the ‘bloc’ solution of the European Coal and Steel community created in 1952, protecting the continent’s products behind a shared tariff wall, sheltered from foreign competition and managed collectively by a supranational bureaucracy” (quinn, 185). On the other hand, Armack’s emphasis on the European solution is in line with his former discussions on Euro-integration under Nazism, precisely where he left them off.

[2] First, at the Hanover Congress and Bad Dürkheim Congress in 1949, the German Socialist Party still recognized the historical and political validity of the class struggle and had the socialization of the means of  production as its objective. In 1959, at the Bad
Godesberg congress, German social democracy first renounced the
principle of transition to the socialization of the means of production
and ultimately opted for state-protection of private property. M. Foucault, The Birth of Biopolitics, p. 88

[3] It is worth mentioning that, in 1957, after the they devoted their post-war lives to the rebuilding of capitalism, the same “fatalism” of capitalist development would fully re-assert itself, against the ordoliberals themselves, when their anticartel law was rendered useless by the power of German monopoly capital, associated in West Germany’s federation of German industry (Bundesverband der deutschen Industrie, or BDI), which included many former key Nazi cartels (such as the Potash industries). According to Van Hook, “Though it called for an outright prohibition of cartels, the law included so many exemptions that rendered it inadequate to combat the wave of reconcentration that characterized the West German economy during the late 1950s and early 1960s.”; – van hook, 233. “Pressured by all sides, including Adenauer, Erhard eventually made important concessions at the behest of West Germany’s federation of German industry (Bundesverband der deutschen Industrie, or BDI), which secured passage of a weakened law in 1957.” 234.

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