Relational Contract Theory and Democratic Citizenship

67 Pages Posted: 10 Jun 2004 Last revised: 25 Jun 2010

See all articles by James W. Fox

James W. Fox

Stetson University - College of Law


In this article I engage Relational Contract Theory ("RCT"), with a focus on the theory of Ian Macneil. I argue that while RCT is a valuable approach to contract and contract law, it has an impoverished approach to the role of the democratic state in contract law. I then contend that by mining some political theories which parallel RCT, particularly the work of Michael Walzer and David Miller, we can construct a relational approach to contract law that credits the democratic state with a significant role in contract law. Such an approach, I argue, provides a more compelling theoretical justification for integrating democratic and dignity-based rights and protections, such as protections against gender and racial discrimination, into contract law. Moreover, a Walzerian approach allows us to view contract law and contract generally as one aspect, or "sphere", of an integrated democratic pluralism and so enables challenges to the colonization of all activities by contract and contract ideology. Ultimately it is the hope of this article to reinvigorate discussions of the role of contract and contract law in democratic society. Along the way I also explore, among other things, the strong links between contract and democracy during the American Reconstruction period, modern issues such as consumer form contracting and unconscionability, and the problem of anormativity in relational contract and other "norms"-oriented theories.

Suggested Citation

Fox, James W., Relational Contract Theory and Democratic Citizenship. Case Western Reserve Law Review, Vol. 54, No. 1, pp. 1-67, Fall 2003, Available at SSRN:

James W. Fox (Contact Author)

Stetson University - College of Law ( email )

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727-562-7890 (Phone)

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