Collateralized Polities: The Transformation of Trust in Sovereign Debt in the Wake of the Eurozone Crisis

Andreas Langenohl


Using the example of the current sovereign debt crisis in the European Monetary Union, the article raises two questions: how does sovereign debt contribute to the constitution of modern political sovereignty and the viability of the polity? And what are the recent changes in this mutual articulation of political sovereignty and financial debt? In genealogical terms, it is argued that in modernity the sovereignty of polities has been hinged to the capacity to raise their budgets without an explicit collateral, that is, without having to clearly define what the values are that serve as a financial counterweight to their debts. This constellation, which is characterized by an utterly unlikely and yet operative effacement of state collateral, is termed ‘sovereign trust.’ The recent Eurozone crisis, in turn, displaces sovereign trust in the creditworthiness of some states as their collateral is being forced into constant interrogation, turning them into ‘collateralized polities’.


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