The Ambitions of Contract as Promise

Charles Fried

in Philosophical Foundations of Contract Law

Published in print December 2014 | ISBN: 9780198713012
Published online March 2015 | e-ISBN: 9780191781414 | DOI:

Series: Philosophical Foundations of Law

The Ambitions of Contract as Promise

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  • Jurisprudence and Philosophy of Law
  • Civil Law


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Contract as Promise, published in 1981, was an attempt to provide a comprehensive theory of contract law, rooted in individualistic, classical liberal premises. The presiding genius of the work was Kant. Specific doctrines that did not fit this template were explained (away) as anomalies, as inevitable intrusions from adjacent areas of law or as just plain mistakes. For many years now the regnant theoretical approach, richly elaborated in and around contract law, has been the economic analysis of law. This chapter, first, notes the striking congruence between contract as promise and the economic analysis of contract law; second, seeks to explain that congruence as well as the divergence between the two accounts; and third, shows how the promise principle relates to competing concerns arising out of the practical necessities of administering legal institutions.

Keywords: promise; autonomy; Kant; good faith; economic analysis; efficiency; Critical Legal Studies; unconscionability

Chapter.  15194 words. 

Subjects: Jurisprudence and Philosophy of Law ; Civil Law

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