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The Persisting Ideal of Agreement in an Age of Boilerplate


  • She is particularly grateful to Stewart Macaulay for his extensive comments and input, Omri Ben-Shahar and Mitu Gulati for their insightful suggestions, and Hendrik Hartog for his mentoring on this project as on so many others.

Tal Kastner received her JD from Yale Law School and is a doctoral candidate in the Department of English at Princeton University. She can be reached at


This essay argues that the treatment of boilerplate as a distinct phenomenon in some contract scholarship sheds light on the way we imagine our social relations. In Omri Ben-Shahar's 2007 compilation, Boilerplate: The Foundation of Market Contracts, aspects of the traditional meeting-of-the-minds model persist, notwithstanding the move away from this framework indicated by the differentiation of boilerplate from traditional contract. Much boilerplate scholarship is informed by a narrative of agreement as an ideal involving agency, autonomy, and meaningful choice. Thus, in an age in which form language pervades American life, a narrative of genuine agreement continues to frame a conception of contractual relations.