The Biopolitics of Ordoliberalism

  • Thomas Biebricher Goethe-Universität Frankfurt


This article examines the biopolitical dimension in ordoliberal thought using Wilhelm Röpke and Alexander Rüstow as exemplary figures of this tradition. Based on an explication of various biopolitical themes that can be extracted from Foucault’s writings and lectures the article argues that these biopolitical themes, although rarely touched on in Foucault’s lectures on ordoliberal governmentality, nevertheless constitute an integral aspect of the thought of Röpke and Rüstow. From the regulation of the population through the strategic lever of the family to the organicist concerns over the health of the social body, biopolitical themes pervade the socio-economic theories of ordoliberalism. The article suggests that critical evaluations of the ordoliberal approach to political economy, which has been gaining ground again in the aftermath of the financial crisis, should take into account the biopolitical–and rather illiberal–dimension of this approach as well.

Author Biography

Thomas Biebricher, Goethe-Universität Frankfurt
Thomas Biebricher studied Political Science, Economics and Public Law at the Albert-Ludwigs-Universität in Freiburg and Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. He received both an M.A. (2000) and his PhD (2003) from Freiburg University. His dissertation was published under the title ‘Selbstkritik der Moderne. Habermas und Foucault im Vergleich’ by Campus Publishing Company in a book series edited by the Institute of Social Research in Frankfurt in 2005. From 2003 to 2009 he worked as a DAAD Visiting Assistant Professor at the Political Science Department of the University of Florida in Gainesville. Since June 2009 he is a Junior Research Group Director at the interdisciplinary Cluster of Excellence ‘Formation of Normative Orders’ at the Goethe-Universität in Frankfurt. The theme of the research group is ‘Varieties of ‘Neoliberalism’ and their Transformation’. At the moment he is working on a book-length project that is tentatively entitled ‘The Normative Worlds of Neoliberalism’ in which he aims to scrutinize the normative dimension of neoliberal thought and how this dimension is reflected in contemporary forms of neoliberal government(ality).