German Law Journal, Vol. 17, issue 5, pp. 705-906., 2016

A Discourse Theoretical Approach to Sovereign Debt Restructuring: Towards a Democratic Financial Order

This Article studies the role of law for aligning democracy with a market-based financial order. Jürgen Habermas’s discourse theoretical understanding of the role of law in the welfare state establishes a structure for exploring this issue. According to this approach, law needs to be enforceable, law-making and law-application need to be institutionally separated, and public law needs to be distinguishable from private law. The contemporary practice of sovereign debt restructuring reveals some empirical and normative challenges to this understanding of the law. Based on these findings, this Article proposes several conceptual and institutional improvements that might lead to a more stable relationship between democracy and financial order. In particular, we argue that sovereign debt restructuring should tap the legitimating potential of existing transnational discourses that are characterized by cross-border cleavages in public discourse.