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contractual governance; Global Governance; globalization; knowledge society; Legal Pluralism; lex mercatoria; political governance; Social Norms; Transnational law


The continuing proliferation of transnational private regulatory governance challenges conceptions of legal authority, legitimacy and public regulation of economic activity. The transnational law merchant or, lex mercatoria, is a case in point in this context, as it represents a laboratory for the exploration of “private” contractual governance in a context, in which the assertion of public or private authority has itself become contentious. The ambiguity surrounding many forms of today’s contractual governance in the transnational arena echoes that of the far-reaching transformation of public regulatory governance, which has been characteristic of Western welfare states over the last few decades. What is particularly remarkable, however, is the way in which the depictions of “private instruments” and “public interests” in the post-welfare state regulatory environment have given rise to a rise in importance of social norms, self-regulation and a general anti-state affect in the assessment of judicial enforcement or administration of contractual arrangements. The paper suggests the need to short-circuit and to read in parallel the justifications offered for a contractual governance model, which prioritizes and seeks to insulate “private” arrangements from their embeddedness in regulated market contexts, on both the national and transnational level.