The True Lex Mercatoria: Law Beyond the State

23 Pages Posted: 5 Sep 2008

See all articles by Ralf Michaels

Ralf Michaels

Max Planck Institute for Comparative and International Private Law

Date Written: August 27, 2008


Is there an anational lex mercatoria, a global law without a state? The debate seems infinite. Some argue that the rules, institutions, and procedures of international arbitration have now achieved a sufficient degree both of autonomy from the state and of legal character that they represent such an anational law. Others respond that whatever law merchant may exist is really state law - dependent on national norms and the freedom of contract they provide, and on the enforceability of arbitral awards by national courts.

This paper suggests that the dichotomy of anational law and state law is false. Although an anational law merchant would be theoretically possible, the true lex mercatoria we are currently observing is not such an anational law. Rather, it is an emerging global commercial law that freely combines elements from national and non-national law. This transnational law presents a far more radical challenge to traditional state-based conceptions of law than the idea of an anational law. It makes the distinction between anational law and state law that permeates the debate over law merchant simply irrelevant by transcending it. The true lex mercatoria marks the shift in global law from segmentary differentiation in different national laws to a functional differentiation. It a law beyond, not without, the state.

Suggested Citation

Michaels, Ralf, The True Lex Mercatoria: Law Beyond the State (August 27, 2008). Indiana Journal of Global Legal Studies, Vol. 14, No. 2, 2008, Duke Law School Public Law & Legal Theory Paper No. 220, Available at SSRN:

Ralf Michaels (Contact Author)

Max Planck Institute for Comparative and International Private Law ( email )

Mittelweg 187
Hamburg, D-20148

Do you have negative results from your research you’d like to share?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics