Capitalism and Freedom

The Yearbook “Normative und institutionelle Grundfragen der Ökonomik” Volume 17 is now available. Edited by Richard Sturn, Katharina Hirschbrunn and Ulrich Klüh.

The “crisis of liberalism” that has been smouldering for several years is on everyone’s lips. The sometimes dynamic, sometimes tense relationship between economic liberalism and other fundamental liberal values is the main focus of attention. From Karl Marx to Milton Friedman, very different thinkers have portrayed the common dynamics of capitalism and freedom. It was precisely the promise of the “neoliberal” turn that was not limited to prosperity, but also referred to autonomy, individuality and freedom of choice.

Again and again, however, developments come to light that reveal tensions, dialectics and paradoxes of this common dynamic. For economic liberals such as Rainer Hank, the worrying way in which the political is currently reappearing in populist-exclusive counter-movements is primarily an expression of deep self-satisfaction. However, competition and the dynamics of growth and globalization create constraints that trigger unease even in those who are neither satisfied nor complacent. Schumpeter stressed that negative effects of innovation processes concentrate on “losers of modernization”. And some things seem to simply outgrow the inhabitants of the modern age, such as digital technologies and globalization. The individual is at their mercy and cannot opt out of them – although some digital monopolies are deliberately constructed in such a way as to make it more difficult to opt out.

In addition to illiberal democracy, forms of capitalism are now a real possibility that have little to do with freedom. The essays in this volume analyse relevant fundamental problems from various perspectives. Specific approaches (digitisation, liability principle, women and labour market, caring) are complemented by empirical and theoretical studies on the interrelation of freedom, democracy and market economy.

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