Law in Hiding: Market Principles in the Global Legal Order

69 Pages Posted: 4 Jan 2018 Last revised: 5 Jan 2018

See all articles by Odette Lienau

Odette Lienau

Cornell University - Law School

Date Written: January 3, 2018


Standing in the background of the global legal order are a range of what might be called “market principles” or “market givens”-collective presentations or beliefs about how markets work-which are treated as objective descriptions at a particular time and place. This Article argues that such market givens should be understood as a kind of “law in hiding,” shaping the policy space available to states and other actors and affecting global legal developments in important but unrecognized ways. Drawing on examples from global financial law, rules on capital mobility, and sovereign debt practices, I demonstrate how market principles can provide the real substantive content for conventionally recognized law, effectively counter official law, and act as powerful rules in the absence of clear legal standards. I further consider why “law” is a suitable categorization for these market principles, adopting a broad definition that derives from and pushes forward recent international legal scholarship. I contend that deliberately incorporating market principles into our understanding of the global legal order would be not only theoretically plausible but also productive, especially by expanding the field of legal work and activism and by raising important questions about lawmaking mechanisms, accountability, and norm coherence. I also suggest that market principles have thus far escaped attention from lawyers in part because of tendencies and assumptions in multiple variants of international legal scholarship itself.

Keywords: market principles, sovereign debt, capital controls, capital mobility, reputation, legal scholarship, legal theory, legal philosophy, norms, legal norms, accountability, international law, international economic law, international financial law, constructivism, critical legal theory, IMF

Suggested Citation

Lienau, Odette, Law in Hiding: Market Principles in the Global Legal Order (January 3, 2018). Hastings Law Journal, Vol. 68, No. 3, 2017, Cornell Legal Studies Research Paper 18-01, Available at SSRN:

Odette Lienau (Contact Author)

Cornell University - Law School ( email )

Myron Taylor Hall
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY 14853-4901
United States

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