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  • Print publication year: 2019
  • Online publication date: September 2019

10 - The Faustian Bargain

from Part III - Constituting Polycentric Governance


Constitution-making involves a 'Faustian bargain' in which individuals and smaller communities give up some of their autonomy for the sake of the benefits brought by larger-scale societies. Transitioning from small-scale quasi-egalitarian societies towards a complex, but more hierarchical, political system makes possible collective action and the provision of public goods at much larger scales, including defence, establishing larger common markets, and basic infrastructure. After introducing the concept of the 'Faustian' bargain, the chapter explains how constitutive rules create such bargains. We turn to the role of monitoring, conflict resolution, and sanctioning as means of building commitments to constitutions, providing for stability and flexibility. The chapter illustrates these relationships using two cases of constitution-making: the multi-level governance of New York City watersheds, and post-conflict situations in which leaders of different ethnic groups come to agreement.

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