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I present a theory of the emergence and evolution of governance, conceived as the process through which the rules systems in place in any social setting are adapted to the needs of those who live under them. The theory is composed of three elements: normative structure, dyadic contracting, and triadic dispute resolution. I demonstrate that amove to triadic dispute resolution leads the triadic dispute resolver to construct, and then to manage over time, specific causal relationships between exchange, conflict, and rules. In this way, political life is judicialized. Under certain conditions, the triad will constitute a crucial mechanism of political change. I then explain judicialization and the dynamics of change in two very different polities: the international trade regime and the French Fifth Republic. The conclusion draws out some of the implications of the theory and data for our understanding of the complex relationship between strategic behavior and social structure.
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