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Document Type

Symposium

Publication Date

Summer 2016

Publication Citation

23 Indiana Journal of Global Legal Studies 531 (2016)

Abstract

This article considers how legal frameworks shape the autonomous subject in a global economy. It makes salient the ways that different legal frameworks presume and enforce a particular subjectivity by positing certain behavioral expectations of various subjects. It does so through a focus on the underexplored rhetoric and implicit narratives of consumer contract law and transactional practice in the American and European regimes. By comparing the approach of the European Union to consumer contract, which posits the consumer as facing significant constraints on agency, to that in the United States, which elides functional limits of consumer knowledge and choice, this article highlights the dynamics of power implicit in how regional legal systems variously recognize parties' behavioral expectations or subjectivity. The article also demonstrates how the positing of subjectivity informs an individual's subjective experience and shapes the corporate subject in a global context. Through two case studies of the role of ancillary terms in American consumer contracts, the article shows how the legal framework enables more powerful actors to leverage the very narrative of agency and rhetoric of agreement as well as the consumer's posited subjectivity to manipulate a consumer's actual subjective experience and hinder choice and agency. Juxtaposing the American and European consumer as subjects, this article highlights the ways in which hierarchies of subjects may be created and, at the very least, how competing subjectivities come to the fore in the global market through contract law.

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