Reordering German Liberalism

Re-examining the Social Market Economy in the 2021 Bundestag Election

in German Politics and Society
Mark I. Vail Politics and International Affairs, Wake Forest University

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This article analyzes economic policy debates and parties’ policy positions during the 2021 Bundestag election campaign, with an emphasis on shifting conceptions of the economic role of the state. Focusing on fiscal and labor market policy, it argues that the election campaign and the commitments of the new Ampel coalition reflect increasing support for more robust state involvement in the economy. It argues further that these shifts in elite discourse demonstrate a continuing rethinking of Germany's economic model and the need to rebalance the relationship between public authority and the decentralized model of social organization and policy responsibility central to German liberalism.

Contributor Notes

Mark I. Vail is Worrell Chair of Politics and International Affairs at Wake Forest University. His research focuses on the comparative political economy of advanced industrial countries, with a particular emphasis on social and economic policy, industrial relations, political institutions, and the role of political ideologies in Western Europe. He has published two books, Liberalism in Illiberal States (2018) and Recasting Welfare Capitalism (2010), as well as chapters in numerous edited volumes and articles in many prominent journals. He is also editor of Agenda Publishing‘s book series “Understanding Europe,” and in 2023 will become Chair of the Council of European Studies.

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