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1985 Wis. L. Rev. 483 (1985)
Relational Contract: What We Do and Do Not Know

handle is hein.journals/wlr1985 and id is 497 raw text is: RELATIONAL CONTRACT: WHAT WE DO AND DO NOT
KNOW
IAN R. MACNEIL*
In this broad-based assessment of contracts scholarship, Professor Macneil
argues that relational thinking is a necessary element in any persuasive account of
legal and social development. By the term relational thinking, Professor Macneil
denotes an approach emphasizing the complex patterns of human interaction that
inform all exchange. He develops theoretical and historical demonstrations of the
pervasiveness of relations in exchange. Finally, Professor Macneil offers a
comprehensive summary of the influence of relational thought on legal scholarship,
assessing the ways in which neoclassical economics, empirical, historical, and critical
legal studies scholarship has recognized (and ignored) basic norms of relational
thinking.
INTRODUCTION
We must know who we are before we can talk about what we
do and not know about anything, including relational contract. My stu-
dents, for example, all know that I invented relational contract, and I
daresay Stewart Macaulay's students all know that he invented rela-
tional contract. Charles Fried knows that relational contract was in-
vented by the Devil. Any good classical neoclassical microeconomist
knows there is no such thing as relational contract. All these wees
happen to be wrong. Or are they? Perhaps for their own purposes, each
of these wees is correct.
Once we have established the correct we, we must explain what
we mean by know. Everyone knows, for example, of the explosion
of litigation in this country. But Marc Galanter's article, Reading the
Landscape of Disputes: What We Know and Don't Know (And Think We
Know) about Our Allegedly Contentious and Litigious Society' shows
they are wrong. Or does it? It depends upon what we mean by know;
*   John Henry Wigmore Professor of Law, Northwestern University School of Law; B.A.
University of Vermont, 1950; J.D. Harvard University, 1955. This Article was prepared originally
as a paper for the conference on Law, Private Governance and Continuing Relationships, held
at the Law School, University of Wisconsin-Madison, September 21, 1984. 1 am indebted to many
at the conference and elsewhere for useful criticism, especially Robert Gordon, Roderick Macneil,
and William Whitford, and to Mark Leitner for exceptionally fine editing.
1. 31 UCLA L. REv. 4 (1983).

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