Alec Stone Sweet
The triad—two contracting parties and a dispute resolver—constitutes a primal social institution, a microcosm of governance. If this is so, in uncovering the institutional dynamics of the triad we uncover an essential logic of government itself. Broadly stated, my objectives are twofold: to defend the validity of these contentions and to demonstrate their centrality to the discipline.
The article proceeds as follows. After introducing key concepts, I present a model of a particular mode of governance. By 'mode of governance' I mean the social mechanism by which the rules in place in any given community are adapted to the experiences and exigencies of those who live under them. The theory integrates, as tightly interdependent factors, the evolution of strategic (utility-maximizing) behaviour and normative (cultural or rule-based) structure. It captures dynamics of change observable at both the micro level, by which I mean the behaviour of individual actors, and the macro level, by which I mean the institutional environment—or social structure—in which this behaviour takes place. In the discussion, the mechanisms of change that are endogenous to the model are specified, and the conditions under which we would expect to see these mechanisms operate, and fail to operate, are identified. I then employ the model to explain two hard cases of systemic change: the international trade regime, established by the 1947 General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade; and the French Fifth Republic, founded in 1958. In the conclusion, I draw out some of the implications of the analysis for our understanding of the complex relationship between strategic behaviour and social structure.