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date: 25 February 2021

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter reflects on how public law, and more specifically constitutional and administrative law, can be understood as expressions of what evolutionary anthropologists and other specialists call human ‘ultra-sociality’. The ultimate focus is on the emergence of a cultural-evolutionary phenomenon—a pervasive conception of ‘right’ (what we now call public law)—that was bound up with, and in turn fed into, the phase transitions that marked the emergence of increasingly complex societies and polities (‘states’) over the course of human history. The chapter focuses on three interrelated phase transitions in particular: the emergence of a collective capacity to mobilize surplus human and fiscal resources (‘blood’ and ‘treasure’); the emergence of a social-psychological sense of legitimate political obligation; and, finally, the emergence of scalable forms of political and legal management as between a governing principal—the person/institution to which political obligation and legitimacy is ultimately owed—and agents who are understood to carry out tasks on behalf of the principal. By stressing the importance of the first two developments as a predicate to the third, this chapter argues that we cannot understand how a polity is administered without first understanding how it is constituted.

Keywords: cultural evolution, dual-inheritance, administrative law, constitutional law, public law, institutional change, political metabolism, ultra-sociality, principal-agent theory, legitimacy

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