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Narrativising contract law

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Abstract:

Socio-legal scholarship in contract maintains that the classical law is ineffective in regulating commercial agreements, and that the law should be more attentive to the role played by relational norms of cooperation and implicit understandings in business dealings. This paper explores the extent to which the parties' own narratives about their business relationship, as presented to a judge through testimony, can be both a source of information to judges about how business is conducted and a corrective to the classical contract law mindset, which favours the operation of individualist over cooperative norms in the resolution of commercial disputes. The paper examines a body of ‘law and narrative’ scholarship which underlines narrative's power to subvert traditional legal norms. It also considers some of the difficulties with relying on party narratives as evidence of the implicit dimensions of commercial agreements, but concludes that such narratives may have a role to play in the development of a more relationally constituted contract law and are thus worthy of closer scrutiny.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1748-121X.2008.00109.x

Affiliations: Reader in Law, University of Hull

Publication date: March 1, 2009

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