International Encyclopedia of Civil Society

Living Edition
| Editors: Regina A. List, Helmut K. Anheier, Stefan Toepler

Nell-Breuning, Oswald von

  • Matthias FreiseEmail author
Living reference work entry


Oswald von Nell-Breuning was an important Catholic theologian, political economist, and philosopher. He is considered to be the originator of modern Catholic social doctrine including its three core principles: personality, subsidiarity, and solidarity. Particularly, the principle of subsidiarity is of great importance for the relationship between state and civil society in several European countries since it obliges the state to give privilege to civil society organizations over public and commercial providers in the production of person-based welfare services.

Basic Biographical Information

Oswald von Nell-Breuning was born 1890 in Trier, Germany, to an old-established noble dynasty.

He studied mathematics, theology, and philosophy in Munich. In 1911, he entered the Society of Jesus and was ordained priest in 1921. After his graduation to the doctor of theology at the University of Münster, he became professor for moral theology, canon law, and sociology in 1928 at the...

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  1. Nell-Breuning, O. v. (1985). Gerechtigkeit und Freiheit. Grundzüge katholischer Soziallehre. München: Europaverlag.Google Scholar
  2. Pfeil, M. (2007). Called and gifted. Charism and Catholic social teaching. Horizons: The Journal of the College Theology Society, 34(3), 222–237.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Uertz, R. (1995). Gerechtigkeit und Freiheit. Oswald von Nell-Breuning als politischer Denker. In K. Graf Ballestrem et al. (Eds.), Sozialethik und politische Bildung (pp. 139–159). Paderborn: Schöningh.Google Scholar

Copyright information

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Political ScienceUniversity of MünsterMünsterGermany

Section editors and affiliations

  • Regina A. List
    • 1
  1. 1.HamburgGermany