Ordo Kreis

In From Public Housing to the Social Market: rental policy strategies in comparative perspective (Routledge, 1995) I refer to the origins of the concept of the social market. The Preface (pages xi to xiv) is too long to reproduce here, but traces the freeing up of my ideas through three Routledge books – from The Myth of home Ownership (1981) through Housing and Social Theory and culminating in From Public Housing to the Social Market (1995).

German ordo-liberalism and the social market

“Social market theory attempts to construct markets in such a way as to strike a balance between economic and social priorities and thereby ameliorate the undesirable effects of the market from within. Although, as already indicated, the idea of the social market derives from post-war Germany, its roots go further back.

Social market theory developed in Germany in the 1930s as an alternative to the extremes of classical liberalism and the command economy…The proponents of social market theory constituted an informal college called Ordo-kreis (the order group), which published numerous works, including the Ordo Yearbook. these “ordo-liberals” wanted to develop what they termed  a “third way”. The third way involved constructing markets in such a manner as to include as to ensure that important social goals were built into the market…This was based on the principle that intervention in markets is necessary and desirable but that it must be marktkonform or market-conforming.” From Public Housing to the Social Market (1995) pp. 11-12

The Ordo Yearbook continues to be published each year, a clear message that their work is not finished, just as the successors of Karl Polanyi’s work are not finished.

In the acknowledgements to From Public Housing to the Social Market (1995) I thank all those who contributed to this work-in-progress. To these I must add those I mention in the Acknowledgements page of this blog, including the researchers at the Swedish National Institute for Building Research and its successor the Institute for Housing and Urban Research, especially Bengt Turner and Bo Bengtsson.

The single post that ties all the themes I cover in this blog together along with the book by John Steinbeck The Grapes of Wrath that my dear wife Kerstin recommended, is Karl Polanyi on Embeddedness. That post in a key way sums up the linking together of ordoliberalism and the work of Karl Polanyi and his successors, Margaret Somers, Fred L. Block, and Gareth Dale. The Grapes of Wrath also shows how ordinary poor people can resist the market organising strength of employers who want to squeeze the wages of the poor.

Finally, Symbolic Interactionism remains close to my heart from my years at Aberdeen where critical criminology was a major interest. My doctoral dissertation at Gothenburg University – An Interactionist Approach to Macro Sociology – has been my one major work using the perspective.  I was never able to attend a symbolic interactionist conference as my work kept me active in the European Network for Housing Research for the last years of my active research life. There is only so much we as individuals can do in one working life. The National Deviancy Symposium at York was the last critical criminology conference I attended and that was in 1969.

I have had very little to do with symbolic interactionists outside of Uppsala University. But the perspective is growing, especially in the younger generation, as, indeed, Gary Alan Fine predicted. He is the one symbolic interactionist of world status I would like to thank for his encouragement and help down the years. We had similar interests – in particular the relationship between micro and macro sociology, as well as one less common interest in the sociology of weather/climate.

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