The Sovereignty of Finance? Distress and the Financialization of Sovereign Debt

In: Perspectives on Global Development and Technology

Abstract

This article argues that the relationship between finance and state sovereignty is neither automatic nor understandable in some generalized manner. To develop this argument, I pay particular attention to the financialization of distressed sovereign debt, especially sovereign debt defaults in the Global South with particular reference to Argentina’s default in 2001 and the string of legal cases it triggered. These legal processes breathed a strange after-life into Argentina’s defaulted debt by converting that debt into fully commodified financial contracts. I argue that the financialization of sovereign debt is enabled by a long and complex evolution in the application of the doctrine of restrictive sovereign immunity. This financialization, moreover, is indicative of ways in which forms of financial distress are reworked as renewed sources of financial value. This provokes questions about the very relationship between waste and value in our global political economy.

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