An arrangement made between two or more parties, committing them to certain obligations which they are required to fulfil even if, at a later time, they do not want to, or find it difficult to do so.

The contract may be implicit or explicit, but even an implicit contract is likely to be signalled by gesture or ceremony which affirms the contract’s existence. Contract is endorsed by law and custom and recorded in documents and other instruments, and sanctions may be material, but the contract itself has no material expression. You cannot see it. You cannot say where it is. The paper may be touched, but the contract itself actually exists only in people’s minds and in the institutional mind of the law. It exists because it is held to exist.

If minds change profoundly enough, as they do with a changed regime, the contract may cease to exist. Although the contract may be both necessary and desirable—it is a powerful concept—the reality of a contract is a social construct, not a material fact; it depends on consent, and can be destroyed if denied and not defended.

It is similar to the concept of God—also a powerful concept, also vulnerable and dependent on the consent of those who affirm it.


Related entries:

Trust, Informal Economy, Performative Truth, Gifts.

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David Fleming
Dr David Fleming (2 January 1940 – 29 November 2010) was a cultural historian and economist, based in London, England. He was among the first to reveal the possibility of peak oil's approach and invented the influential TEQs scheme, designed to address this and climate change. He was also a pioneer of post-growth economics, and a significant figure in the development of the UK Green Party, the Transition Towns movement and the New Economics Foundation, as well as a Chairman of the Soil Association. His wide-ranging independent analysis culminated in two critically acclaimed books, 'Lean Logic' and 'Surviving the Future', published posthumously in 2016. These in turn inspired the 2020 launches of both BAFTA-winning director Peter Armstrong's feature film about Fleming's perspective and legacy - 'The Sequel: What Will Follow Our Troubled Civilisation?' - and Sterling College's unique 'Surviving the Future: Conversations for Our Time' online courses. For more information on all of the above, including Lean Logic, click the little globe below!

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