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Rethinking sovereign default

Gill, David James


Professor of International Relations


Scholars continue to debate why states repay their debts to foreign creditors. The existing literature stresses the short-term economic and political costs that deter default, focusing on reputational damage, creditor reprisals, spillover costs, and loss of office. International Relations scholars and economists have largely tested these explanations using quantitative methods, framing their analyses as a choice between default and non-default driven by the rational interests of states or actors within them. The three books considered here draw on qualitative methods to refine and sometimes challenge the prevailing wisdom, offering valuable insights concerning the many types and wider-ranging causes of sovereign default. These books reveal that default is not a binary outcome but instead a spectrum ranging from unilateral repudiation through to cooperative restructuring. Furthermore, governments sometimes default for economically irrational reasons, reflecting shifts in domestic-political interests or changes in state identity. This new literature also raises important questions for future researchers, especially about when default can be beneficial and how it can affect long-term relations between states.


Gill, D. J. (2021). Rethinking sovereign default. Review of International Political Economy, 28(6), 1751-1770.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Mar 5, 2021
Online Publication Date Apr 21, 2021
Publication Date Apr 21, 2021
Deposit Date Mar 17, 2021
Publicly Available Date Oct 22, 2022
Journal Review of International Political Economy
Print ISSN 0969-2290
Electronic ISSN 1466-4526
Publisher Routledge
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 28
Issue 6
Pages 1751-1770
Keywords Political Science and International Relations; Economics and Econometrics; Sociology and Political Science
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Review of International Political Economy on 21 April 2021, available online


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