The assumption that contracts are largely impersonal, rational, voluntary agreements drawn up between self-interested individual agents is a convenient fiction, necessary for analysis using conventional economic methods. Papers prepared for a recent conference on ethics and international debt were shaped by just such an assumption. The adequacy of this approach is, however, challenged by evidence about who is affected by international debt, how contracts are actually made and followed, the behavior of actors in financial markets, and the motivations of scholars themselves. This essay uses insights from feminist and relational scholarship from several disciplines to analyze the reasons for this sort of habitual neglect of certain kinds of evidence within economics, and to point towards more adequate alternatives.
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