The True Lex Mercatoria: Law Beyond the State
The most up-to-date version of this piece can be found in the Duke Law Scholarship
published at, 14 Indiana Journal of Global Legal Studies 447 (2007)
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 statebased 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 is a law beyond, not without, the state.
Date of Authorship for this Version
law merchant, law without state, anational law, transnational law
Michaels, Ralf, "The True Lex Mercatoria: Law Beyond the State" (2007). Duke Law School Faculty Scholarship Series. 150.