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Justice in Transactions

Justice in Transactions

A Theory of Contract Law

Peter Benson

ISBN 9780674237599

Publication date: 12/17/2019

“One of the most important contributions to the field of contract theory—if not the most important—in the past 25 years.” —Stephen A. Smith, McGill University

Can we account for contract law on a moral basis that is acceptable from the standpoint of liberal justice? To answer this question, Peter Benson develops a theory of contract that is completely independent of—and arguably superior to—long-dominant views, which take contract law to be justified on the basis of economics or promissory morality. Through a detailed analysis of contract principles and doctrines, Benson brings out the specific normative conception underpinning the whole of contract law. Contract, he argues, is best explained as a transfer of rights, which is complete at the moment of agreement and is governed by a definite conception of justice—justice in transactions.

Benson’s analysis provides what John Rawls called a public basis of justification, which is as essential to the liberal legitimacy of contract as to any other form of coercive law. The argument of Justice in Transactions is expressly complementary to Rawls’s, presenting an original justification designed specifically for transactions, as distinguished from the background institutions to which Rawls’s own theory applies. The result is a field-defining work offering a comprehensive theory of contract law. Benson shows that contract law is both justified in its own right and fully congruent with other domains—moral, economic, and political—of liberal society.


  • Professor Benson is one of the world’s leading contract theorists. This book is the culmination of his research, writing, and reflections on contract law spanning over three decades. Ambitious, innovative, rigorously argued, carefully researched, and clearly written, this work is, in my view, one of the most important contributions to the field of contract theory—if not the most important contribution—in the past 25 years.

    —Stephen A. Smith, Faculty of Law, McGill University


  • Peter Benson is Professor of Law at the University of Toronto. A former clerk for Chief Justice Bora Laskin of the Supreme Court of Canada, he is the editor of The Theory of Contract Law. His work has appeared in journals including Political Theory, Columbia Law Review, Iowa Law Review, Cardozo Law Review, and Canadian Journal of Law and Jurisprudence, as well as in leading collections such as the Oxford Handbook of Jurisprudence and Philosophical Foundations of Tort Law.

Book Details

  • 624 pages
  • 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
  • Belknap Press