Liberalizing Contracts: Nineteenth Century Promises Through Literature, Law and History, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Liberalizing Contracts

Nineteenth Century Promises Through Literature, Law and History, 1st Edition

By Anat Rosenberg


264 pages

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Paperback: 9780367150839
pub: 2019-01-23
Hardback: 9781138923706
pub: 2017-07-28
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pub: 2017-07-20
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In Liberalizing Contracts Anat Rosenberg examines nineteenth-century liberal thought in England, as developed through, and as it developed, the concept of contract, understood as the formal legal category of binding agreement, and the relations and human practices at which it gestured, most basically that of promise, most broadly the capitalist market order. She does so by placing canonical realist novels in conversation with legal-historical knowledge about Victorian contracts. Rosenberg argues that current understandings of the liberal effort in contracts need reconstructing from both ends of Henry Maine's famed aphorism, which described a historical progress "from status to contract." On the side of contract, historical accounts of its liberal content have been oscillating between atomism and social-collective approaches, missing out on forms of relationality in Victorian liberal conceptualizations of contracts which the book establishes in their complexity, richness, and wavering appeal. On the side of status, the expectation of a move "from status" has led to a split along the liberal/radical fault line among those assessing liberalism's historical commitment to promote mobility and equality. The split misses out on the possibility that liberalism functioned as a historical reinterpretation of statuses – particularly gender and class – rather than either an effort of their elimination or preservation. As Rosenberg shows, that reinterpretation effectively secured, yet also altered, gender and class hierarchies. There is no teleology to such an account.

Table of Contents

Introduction;   1. Contract’s Liberalism in Contracts Histories;   Part I: From Status   Foreword to Part I;   2.Credit and the Market: Vanity Fair and The Way We Live Now;   3. Contract and Abstraction(?): Agency in Ruth and Bleak House;   4. Contract and Freedom(?): Constrained Existence in Middlemarch and The Mayor of Casterbridge;   Part II: With Status   Foreword to Part II;   5. Status-to-Contract Reassessed: The Victorian Promise of Marriage;   6. Liberal Anguish: Wuthering Heights and the Structures of Liberal Thought;   Epilogue: History is Always in the Future

About the Author

Dr. Anat Rosenberg is an Assistant Professor (Lecturer) at the Radzyner Law School, The Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) Herzliya, Israel. She had been a visiting research fellow at Columbia Law School, and is currently a visiting scholar at the Faculty of History at the University of Cambridge, and a visiting fellow at the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, the University of London. Her research brings together law, literature, sociology and cultural studies, to study the history of late modern capitalism.

About the Series

Discourses of Law

This successful and exciting series seeks to publish the most innovative scholarship at the intersection of law, philosophy and social theory. The books published in the series are distinctive by virtue of exploring the boundaries of legal thought. The work that this series seeks to promote is marked most strongly by the drive to open up new perspectives on the relation between law and other disciplines. The series has also been unique in its commitment to international and comparative perspectives upon an increasingly global legal order. Of particular interest in a contemporary context, the series has concentrated upon the introduction and translation of continental traditions of theory and law.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / Europe / General
HISTORY / Modern / 19th Century
LAW / General
LAW / Contracts
LAW / Legal History