Böckenförde dilemma

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

The Böckenförde Dilemma (German: Böckenforde-Diktum) is a problem (dilemma), which claims that in secular states there are difficulties to create social capital.

The dilemma is named after German constitutional judge Ernst-Wolfgang Böckenförde.

It runs thus:

The libertarian,[note 1] secularized state lives by prerequisites which it[note 2] cannot guarantee itself. This is the great adventure it risked for freedom's sake.

Ernst-Wolfgang BöckenfördeStaat, Gesellschaft, Freiheit. 1976, S. 60.

He goes on to say, "As a libertarian state it can only endure if the freedom it bestows on its citizens takes some regulation from the interior, both from a moral substance of the individuals and a certain homogeneity of society at large. On the other hand, it cannot by itself procure these interior forces of regulation, that is not with its own means such as legal compulsion and authoritative decree. Doing so, it would surrender its libertarianness and fall back, in a secular manner, into the claim of totality it once led the way out of, back then in the confessional civil wars."


  1. ^ freiheitlich. In German itself a synonym of liberal, which however must not be confused with its English meaning. The translation "libertarian" seems to be best, however the meaning of the word goes beyond stipulating an economic program.
  2. ^ lit. "he". The personification of the state which runs through the whole of Böckenförde's sayings here in question is fostered by German grammar, which assigns the masculine pronoun to the word "Staat".