Legal Consciousness and Contractual Obligations


The Article on “Legal Consciousness and Contractual Obligations” will explore and offer an explanation of the origins of the moral foundations for contractual obligations beyond conventional analysis. Building on themes and threads across many disciplines and theories, it seeks to identify and locate certain unities and common elements that explain human consciousness in exchange relations across cultures. The term contract is used in its non-technical and most inclusive sense to cover agreements, promises, undertakings and other forms of consensus whether or not supported by consideration. Viewed within this broad conceptual framework, where do human beings get the idea that they must keep their word or perform their promises? Is it, as utilitarian theorists might suggest, simply a matter of careful calculation of individual benefits and burdens for breach? Or, might our consciousness in contractual obligations have deep roots in some normative system derived from our group or collectivity? On the other hand, is our legal consciousness in contractual obligations located in our deepest interior which allows us to make commitments for events yet to unfold based on our faith and trust? But commitments based on faith speak to the phenomenon of human spirituality. In this sense legal consciousness in contractual obligations might have its roots in spirituality, religion, theology or the centrality of the supernatural in the ordering of human social organizations. In the specific case of Judeo-Christian religions, might the sources of contractual obligation be located in the “Covenant with God”? But the origins of contractual obligations might be less a question of religion but more a question of evolved species-typical social instincts and norms of reciprocity, collaboration and cooperation. In a world of “efficient breach” and shifting moods in international relations, the investigation of this question is both timely and important.


Comparative and Foreign Law | Contracts | Economics | Jurisprudence | Law and Economics | Law and Society | Religion Law

Date of this Version

September 2006