Do contracts always involve a “meeting of minds”? Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes called that commonplace a fiction. But, whether it is or not, real contracts continue to proliferate. We might even call some cultures contractual. This course considers this idea by examining different forms of contract: from the reciprocated gift and the social compact to “boilerplate” and “click-to-agree" terms of service. We will discuss how contracts came to be, how they work now, and what could be their future. Contracts are mundane, yet powerful tools. They are said to endow personhood but can also deny agency. They can alter or displace law, making and unmaking whole social frameworks. What happens when common narratives of contract enter the realm of cultural production? Who bears the costs of misalignments between the law of contract and social norms? Are there such things as sexual, racial, or constitutional contracts? Do we make contracts, or do contracts make us?
Limited to 30 students. Fall semester. Visiting Assistant Professor Brangan.