Current globalisation of markets has imposed, on national states' legislation, a new lex mercatoria concerning the regulation of transnational commerce, the original legal status of which is acknowledged by national courts. New legal figures, better suited to new economic needs, have shifted the centre of gravity from the law to contracts, which thus assume universal value; and increasingly novel and flexible models of economic activity and financial tools can easily be applied across national frontiers. The globalisation of the economy has a double effect on law: it displaces principles concerning the state-based nature of law and contributes to the formation of non-state law; but at the same time, by separating laws from the nation that produced them, law itself becomes exportable and relevant beyond its original boundaries, thus engendering a sort of "shopping" behaviour whereby a party can search for the most favourable norms and seek to have them enforced. The global lex mercatoria combines, as in a kaleidoscope, elements of civil law and common law, and different legal organisations tend to conform to this process. Such novelty, notes the author, does not involve only nations facing the Atlantic: the lex mercatoria has already brought into the West legal principles originating in the East, which could ultimately lead to the twilight of Western hegemony.
Francesco Galgano teaches Civil Law at the University of Bologna. A scholar of international renown, he is the author of many specialist texts as well as student textbooks.
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