Contract as Promise: A Theory of Contractual Obligation

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This book displays the underlying structure of a complex body of law and integrates that structure with moral principles.

Charles Fried grounds the basic legal institution of contract in the morality of promise, under which individuals incur obligations freely by invoking each other's trust. Contract law and the promise principle are contrasted to the socially imposed obligations of compensation, restitution, and sharing, which determine the other basic institutions of private ...

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Overview

This book displays the underlying structure of a complex body of law and integrates that structure with moral principles.

Charles Fried grounds the basic legal institution of contract in the morality of promise, under which individuals incur obligations freely by invoking each other's trust. Contract law and the promise principle are contrasted to the socially imposed obligations of compensation, restitution, and sharing, which determine the other basic institutions of private law, and which come into control where the parties have not succeeded in invoking the promise principle—as in the case of mistake or impossibility. Professor Fried illustrates his argument with a wide range of concrete examples; and opposing views of contract law are discussed in detail, particularly in connection with the doctrines of good faith, duress, and unconscionability.

For law students and legal scholars, Contract as Promise offers a coherent survey of an important legal concept. For philosophers and social scientists, the book is a unique demonstration of the practical and detailed entailments of moral theory.

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Editorial Reviews

Harvard Law Review
Charles Fried attempts to restate and defend a liberal theory of contract...In setting out to defend what is, albeit in modified form, the classical theory of contract, Professor Fried is conscious that he is confronting a considerable weight of modern contract scholarship...This Fried confronts or finesses with elegance, grace, and skill.
New York Law Journal<br>
Fried calls into question some of the most deeply held assumptions of contract law [and] argues powerfully for a moral basis of contract...Fried's book offers a sensitive and subtle investigation, a richly suggestive vision of contract theory. The study and systematic critical discussion of such theory is of the first importance, for it is a question of nothing less than the relationship between law and morals.
Yale Law Review
[A] readable and provocative book on the philosophical foundations of contract law...Fried's argument makes a powerful case for the view that the law of contracts has a recognizable and distinctive intellectual integrity of its own...Students will find Fried's unifying hypothesis a helpful aid.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674169258
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 5/11/1981
  • Pages: 174

Meet the Author

Charles Fried is Beneficial Professor of Law, Harvard University.

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Table of Contents

1. Introduction: The Life of Contract

2. Contract as Promise

Promise

The Moral Obligation of Promise

What a Promise is Worth

Remedies in and around the Promise

3. Consideration

4. Answering a Promise: Offer and Acceptance

Promises and Vows

Acceptance and the Law of Third-Party Beneficiaries

The Simple Circuitry of Offer and Acceptance

Rejections, Counteroffers, Contracts at a Distance, Crossed Offers

Reliance on an Offer

5. Gaps

Mistake, Frustration, and Impossibility

Letting the Loss Lie Where It Falls

Parallels with General Legal Theory: An Excursion

Filling the Gaps

6. Good Faith

"Honesty in Fact"

Good Faith in Performance

7. Duress and Unconscionability

Duress

Coercion and Rights

Property

Hard Bargains

Unconscionability, Economic Duress, and Social Justice

Bad Samaritans

8. The Importance of Being Right

You Can Always Get Your Money Back

Conditions

Waivers, Forfeitures, Repudiations

Notes

Index

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