Financial Power and Democratic Legitimacy: How to Think Realistically about Public Debt

Janosch Prinz, Enzo Rossi

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To what extent are questions of sovereign debt a matter for political rather than scientific or moral adjudication? We answer that question by defending three claims. We argue that (i) moral and technocratic takes on sovereign debt tend to be ideological in a pejorative sense of the term, and that therefore (ii) sovereign debt should be politicised all the way down. We then show that this sort of politicisation need not boil down to the crude Realpolitik of debtor-creditor power relations—a conclusion that would leave no room for normative theory, among other problems. Rather, we argue that (iii) in a democratic context, a realist approach to politics centred on what Bernard Williams calls ‘The Basic Legitimation Demand’ affords a deliberative approach to the normative evaluation of public debt policy options.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)115-140
JournalSocial Theory and Practice
Issue number1
Early online date4 Dec 2021
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2022

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