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The Illusion of Freedom: Unpacking Wilhelm Röpke's Critique

Updated: Apr 30, 2023

How licentiousness and selfishness masquerade as freedom and what that means for today's society

Wilhelm Röpke, one of the most influential economists of the 20th century, is known for his critical views on modern society's understanding of freedom. In his book "Jenseits von Angebot und Nachfrage" (Beyond Supply and Demand), he argues that what is often referred to as freedom is, in reality, a lack of restraint and a breakdown of community and tradition.


Röpke's words ring true today, as we witness the consequences of unfettered individualism and a disregard for collective well-being. In the pursuit of personal gain, many have lost sight of the importance of community and tradition, leading to a breakdown in social cohesion and a rise in divisiveness and conflict.


The challenges we face today, from climate change to social inequality, require a collective response that goes beyond individual interests. Röpke's warning about the dangers of unchecked individualism serves as a reminder that true freedom cannot be achieved without responsibility and consideration for others.


Furthermore, Röpke's critique of modern society's understanding of freedom also highlights the importance of context and perspective. While individual freedoms are important, they cannot be pursued at the expense of the common good. A balance must be struck between personal autonomy and collective responsibility.


In academic writing, it is important to cite sources properly, as it shows respect for the ideas and contributions of others. Röpke's quote from "Jenseits von Angebot und Nachfrage" serves as a reminder of the importance of academic integrity and the value of referencing in academic discourse.


In conclusion, Röpke's words on the dangers of a narrow understanding of freedom are as relevant today as they were when he wrote them. As we face complex challenges, we must recognize the importance of community and tradition, and strive for a balance between personal autonomy and collective responsibility. Referencing sources like Röpke's work is essential to maintaining the integrity of academic discourse and ensuring that we build upon the ideas and insights of those who came before us.


Wilhelm Röpke in ,,Jenseits von Angebot und Nachfrage", 5. Auflage 1979, S. 36/37


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