Save the date: Workshop on Sovereign Debt in Cambridge

On 25 May 2015 Anne Henow, Hayk Kupelyants, Jens van ‘t Klooster, Kim Hecker and Marco Meyer from the University of Cambridge will host a one day workshop on “The Ideal of Democracy and the Reality of Sovereign Debt” at Gonville and Caius College in Cambridge.

Here is the call for papers:

In the aftermath of the 2008 bank bailouts, sovereign debt has increased to unprecedented levels. As a result, governments saw their policy room curtailed by the demand for credibility and access to international capital markets. In Greece and Italy, democratically elected officials stepped down from power with the aim of promoting creditworthiness. The Argentine litigation in the United States again brought attention to substantial sway of bondholders over sovereign states.

As a response, economic and legal debates on sovereign debts have been wide and varied, but they have only rarely addressed the core normative issues involved in issuing, trading, and restructuring sovereign debt. Political philosophers have been slow to respond to issues raised by recent debt crises. One likely reason for the current lack of normative reflection on the increased political importance of financial dynamics is the complexity of international financial markets.

The aim of the workshop is therefore to bring together scholars from philosophy, law, and the social sciences to discuss the consequences of rising sovereign debts for the normative ideals that inform existing parliamentary democracy. The workshop will feature invited contributions by keynote speakers Philip Wood (Law, Allen & Overy) and Gabriel Wollner (Philosophy, Humboldt). Drawing on these diverse perspectives, the workshop will contribute to a new framework for evaluating sovereign indebtedness.

Topics include but are certainly not limited to:

  •  Financial markets and democratic sovereignty
  • Design of sovereign debt contracts and the role of international institutions
  • The values and dangers of sovereign debt for social welfare
  • Sustainable public finance and investment
  • Fair sovereign debt restructuring
  • Dealing with sovereign debt within the Eurozone
  • Odious debt
  • Rights and responsibilities of bondholders

Keynote speakers:

PHILIP WOOD is an expert in comparative and cross-border financial law and works full-time for the law firm Allen & Overy in the firm’s London office. He has written around 18 books, including nine volumes in the series Law and Practice of International Finance published in He held visiting academic positions at the Universities of Cambridge, Oxford and Queen Mary.

GABRIEL WOLLNER is assistant professor in philosophy at Humboldt University Berlin. His academic interests are in political philosophy and ethics, and the application of these inquiries to various issues in public policy. His work has appeared in a number of journals, including ‘The Journal of Social Philosophy’, ‘The Journal of Political Philosophy’ and ‘The Canadian Journal of Philosophy’.

Submission details and deadlines:

The workshop is a one day event for which participants are expected to read the presented papers in advance. Papers can be up 10,000 words in length and presentations will be limited to 10 minutes, followed by a 40 minute discussion. To apply, please send a 500 – 700 word abstract to Jens van ‘t Klooster (jmv32@cam.ac.uk) before the 15th of February. Accepted presenters will be asked to circulate their paper by the first of May.

Organizers: Anne Henow, Hayk Kupelyants, Jens van ‘t Klooster, Kim Hecker and Marco Meyer.

We gratefully acknowledge support by the University of Cambridge School of Arts and Humanities, Gonville and Caius College Cambridge and the Cambridge-Groningen ‘Trusting Banks’ project.

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