Article by Robin Bradley Kar & Margaret Jane Radin
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Over the last several decades, courts and legal scholars have struggled with whether or when to consider boilerplate text as contract. Recent attempts to draw all boilerplate text into “contract” seek to end that struggle but have shifted contract law away from its traditional focus on enforcing parties’ actual agreements and common understandings. This has required a series of ad hoc “fixes” to contract law reminiscent of the medieval use of “epicycles” to try to square geocentric theories of planetary motion with recalcitrant observations of a nongeocentric universe. This shift has been transforming the meanings of contract law’s central concepts. We view the shift as an undiagnosed paradigm slip, resulting in a generalized theory of “contract” as a mere assumption of risk that allows private obligations to be created unilaterally without reaching the actual agreements required by core contract law principles. Some now call this new sort of obligation “contract.” But it is pseudo-contract, resembling contract without fulfilling its necessary conditions of validity.