This chapter pursues the modern connotations of the public to such different bodies as the state, financial market and society in an analysis of public credit and finds that the sovereign state's becoming creditworthy in modernity critically implies the co-evolution of financial markets and society, as well as the evolution of a self-consciously fictional imaginary of the public.
The phenomenon of public credit refers not only to the intersubjective bond created by monetary and financial circulation but also to the collective accreditation of the state fiction. The chapter first specifies the relation of public credit to the traditional models for social unity and cohesion: the social contract and body politic. In this analysis the imaginary constitution of society in the 17th and 18th centuries becomes explicit: both in the new category of the collective imagination, that exceeds the social contract and binds individuals in euphoria or panic, as well as in the effective functioning of the imaginary self-referentiality of fiat money. The chapter moves on to a closer examination of the criteria of credibility that define the collective accreditation of public credit. Despite the subversive intentions of the realist novel and other literary 'counterdiscourses', these critical discourses as well as finanical crises seem to have played a decisive role in the gradual development of sovereign creditworthiness, financial markets and the modern conception of society.