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Intimate Relationships, Relational Contract Theory and the Reach of Contract

Wightman, John (2000) Intimate Relationships, Relational Contract Theory and the Reach of Contract. Feminist Legal Studies, 8 (1). pp. 93-131. ISSN 0966-3622. E-ISSN 1572-8455. (doi:10.1023/A:1009252419410) (The full text of this publication is not currently available from this repository. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided) (KAR id:92306)

The full text of this publication is not currently available from this repository. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided.
Official URL
https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1009252419410

Abstract

This article explores the role of contract law inintimate relationships, focussing on tacit or onlypartially express agreements rather than expressprenuptial or cohabitation contracts. It welcomes theembrace of relational contract theory by feminist andgay and lesbian commentators, but argues that keydifferences between commercial and intimaterelationships need further analysis if the potentialof relational theory in cases of informal agreement isto be realised. The first difference is that,while commercial contracts can draw on the context ofa contracting community as a source of norms to fillgaps in agreement, there is no equivalent source ofnorms for intimate relationships. The seconddifference is that, although relational theory entailsthe attenuation of self interest in commercialcontracts, in intimate relationships the sense inwhich self interest is attenuated is quite different,with the result that concepts such as cooperation andaltruism have different meanings. The result of thesedifferences is that, in some intimate relationships,there will be informal understandings falling short ofbargain, which will be unenforceable – under bothorthodox contract law and more relationalinterpretations of it. It is argued that many suchinformal agreements are distinguishable from mostgratuitous promises because they are characterised bya degree of reciprocity between the parties. Thepossibility of the law of contract recognising suchnon bargain agreements based on reciprocity isexplored, and it is argued that the enforcement ofsuch agreements represents a less distorting legalresponse than that available through the use ofpromissory estoppel.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1023/A:1009252419410
Uncontrolled keywords: altruism, bargain, cooperation, implied contract, intimate relationships, relational contract theory, reliance
Subjects: K Law > K Law (General)
Divisions: Divisions > Division for the Study of Law, Society and Social Justice > Kent Law School
Depositing User: John Wightman
Date Deposited: 14 Dec 2021 00:06 UTC
Last Modified: 12 Jan 2022 12:01 UTC
Resource URI: https://kar.kent.ac.uk/id/eprint/92306 (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
Wightman, John: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-8087-5031
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