The functions and significance of contract law, on the classical model at least, appear clear and undeniable. Along with the recognition and protection of property rights, a state-endorsed system of contract enforcement is one of the key constituents of a market economy. The law tells us how legally enforceable agreements are created, and it polices the contract contents, the excuses for non-performance and the remedies for breach. The principle of freedom of contract lies at its heart: individuals, rather than the state, are the best judge of their own preferences and are best equipped to identify opportunities for the pursuit and satisfaction of these preferences via a system of voluntary exchange. As well as providing the rules governing this process, contract law has generated a rich theoretical literature, using a variety of methodological perspectives to scrutinise the nature of contractual liability. There seems little room for doubt that a robust system of contract law lays legitimate claim to be a pillar of the liberal social and economic order and one of the hallmarks of a developed nation-state. Small wonder then that contract law occupies a distinct space in the curriculum of the UK undergraduate law degree. It is one of the foundations of legal knowledge and a core subject for the aspiring legal professional. It provides a grounding in common law method and forms the bedrock upon which the more specialised regulation of specific contracts (between employer–employee, consumer–business and landlord–tenant, for example) is built.
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- The Common Law of Contract: Essential or Expendable?
- Macmillan Education UK
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- Chapter 2