State Formation from Below

Subsidiarity and the Origins of Coordinated Capitalism in Nineteenth-Century Germany


  • Carsten Nickel



Varieties of Capitalism, State formation, Decentralization, Germany, Subsidiarity, Coordinated Capitalism, Nineteenth Century


In late-nineteenth century Germany, the new public services required under rapid industrialization could not be provided in a top-down manner, despite Bismarck’s authoritarian aspirations. Lower-level actors therefore pushed for an alternative — well-established during centuries of internal state formation — based on the principle of subsidiarity (Latin for “assistance”): the coordination of mutual assistance, from local auxiliary funds to new electoral systems. The article theorizes the initially ecclesial programme of subsidiarity in the terms of modern politics and economics, and proposes a five-stage model for the rise of coordinated institutions from the private to the public level in late nineteenth-century Germany, based on an analysis of historical sources.