At first more interested in history, Walter Eucken finally chose to study economics in Kiel, Jena and Bonn. He received his doctorate in 1914, shortly before he had to serve as officer at the fronts of World War I. In 1921 in Berlin, Eucken completed additional studies and was appointed to his first professorship. In 1927 he moved to Freiburg, where he was professor of economics until his death. During the Nazi period, Eucken was associated to the resistance movement (Freiburg Bonhoeffer Circle).
The idea of ordoliberalism was introduced for the first time in 1937 in Ordnung der Wirtschaft, a periodical published by Walter Eucken, Franz Böhm and Hans Großmann-Doerth. From 1948 on it was further developed in the journal ORDO.