This study investigates the search for the third way in the history of German Christian Democracy. Today, in the United Kingdom, the 'third way' is seen as a new phenomenon, a synthesis of post-war belief in the welfare state and neo-liberal conservatism. Yet it insufficiently acknowledges that the origins of third way thinking, the marriage of social justice with free market economics, of individualism with collective responsibility, are found in the early philosophies of Catholic Social Theory and Protestant Social Ethical Teaching in Germany. This study shows that in the hundred years from the 1840s to the end of the 1940s, there were Catholic and Protestant socio-ethical thinkers and political reformists in Germany who attempted to bridge the philosophical differences between liberalism and socialism, to develop a socio-economic order based on Christian moral values. It will focus on the period 1945-1949, when the CDU was founded as the first interdenominational, Christian party. The study provides the first comprehensive account of the political debates in Christian democratic groups in the Soviet, British, French and American allied occupied zones, also giving equal attention to the contribution from the Protestant wing, alongside the more widely acknowledged role of Catholics in the birth of the CDU. It examines how Christian Democrats envisaged correcting the aberrations of German history, by uniting all social classes and Christian religions in one all-embracing Volkspartei, and transforming party politics from its earlier obsession with sectarian and ideological interests towards a more pragmatic 'third way' programme. The study argues that through the making of its ideology, the CDU modified the nation's understanding of its history, re-interpreted its traditions, and redefined the meaning and perception of established political philosophies. This reveals how the ambiguity of political terminology, and the flexible practice of 'third way' politics, were an invaluable political resource in the CDU's campaign for unity, ideological legitimisation and political power.
|Date of Award||1999|
- ideology of the third way
- evolution of christian democracy in Germany