Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa

The Study of Critical Junctures: Theory, Narrative, and Counterfactuals in Historical Institutionalism

  • Giovanni Capoccia (a1) and R. Daniel Kelemen (a2)

The causal logic behind many arguments in historical institutionalism emphasizes the enduring impact of choices made during critical junctures in history. These choices close off alternative options and lead to the establishment of institutions that generate self-reinforcing path-dependent processes. Despite the theoretical and practical importance of critical junctures, however, analyses of path dependence often devote little attention to them. The article reconstructs the concept of critical junctures, delimits its range of application, and provides methodological guidance for its use in historical institutional analyses. Contingency is the key characteristic of critical junctures, and counterfactual reasoning and narrative methods are necessary to analyze contingent factors and their impact. Finally, the authors address specific issues relevant to both cross-sectional and longitudinal comparisons of critical junctures.

Linked references
Hide All

This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

Kathleen Thelen , “How Institutions Evolve,” in James Mahoney and Dietrich Rueschemeyer , eds., Comparative HistoricalAnalysis in the Social Sciences (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003)

James Mahoney , “Path Dependent Explanations of Regime Change,” Studies in Comparative and International Development, 36, no. 1 (2001), 114

Scott Page , “Path Dependence,” Quarterly Journal of Political Science 1, no. 1 (2006)

W. Brian Arthur , “Competing Technologies, Increasing Returns, and Lock-in by Historical Events,” Economic Journal 99 (March 1989)

Peter Hall , “Policy Paradigms, Social Learning, and the State,” Comparative Politics 25 (April 1993)

John Gal and David Bargal , “Critical Junctures, Labor Movements and the Development of Occupational Welfare in Israel,” Social Problems 49, no. 3 (2002)

Jacob Hacker , “The Historical Logic of National Health Insurance: Structure and Sequence in the Development of British, Canadian and US Medical Policy,” Studies in American Political Development 12, no. 2 (1998)

Jack Balkin and Sanford Levinson , “Understanding the Constitutional Revolution,” Virginia Law Review 87, no. 6 (2001)

Brigid Laffan , “The Big Budgetary Bargains,” Journal of European Public Policy 7, no. 5 (2000)

John Hogan , “Testing for a Critical Juncture: Change in the ICTU'S Influence Over Public Policy in 1959,” Irish Political Studies 20, no. 3 (2005)

Jan Erk , “Sub-state Nationalism and the Left-Right Divide: Critical Junctures and the Formation of Nationalist Labour Movements in Belgium,” Nations and Nationalism 11, no. 4 (2005), 551

Ann Swidler , “Culture in Action: Symbols and Strategies,” American Sociological Review 51, no. 2 (1986)

Stephen Skowronek , “Order and Change,” Polity 28, no. 1 (1995), 95

Kathleen Thelen , “Historical Institutionalism in Comparative Politics,” Annual Review of Political Science 2 (1999)

B. Guy Peters , Jon Pierre , and Desmond S. King , “The Politics of Path Dependency: Political Conflict in Historical Institutionalism,” Journal of Politics 67, no. 4 (2005)

Barbara Geddes , Paradigms and Sand Castles (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2003)

idem, “Systematic Process Analysis: When and How to Use It,” European Management Review 3, no. 1 (2006), 2431

Margaret Levi , “Producing an Analytic Narrative,” in John R. Bowen and Roger Petersen , eds., Critical Comparison in Politics and Culture (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999)

Johannes Bulhof , “What If? Modality and History,” History and Theory 38, no. 2 (1999)

Martin Bunzl , “Counterfactual History: A User's Guide,” American Historical Review 109, no. 3 (2004)

Henry Ashby Turner Jr., “Human Agency and Impersonal Determinants in Historical Causation,” History and Theory 38, no. 3 (1999)

Richard Ned Lebow , “Contingency, Catalysts, and International System Change,” Political Science Quarterly 115, no. 4 (2000)

Daniel Carpenter , “What Is the Marginal Value of Analytic Narratives?” Social Science History 24, no. 4 (2000)

Giovanni Sartori , “Comparing and Miscomparing,” Journal of Theoretical Politics 3, no. 3 (1991)

Giovanni Capoccia , “Defending Democracy: Strategies of Reaction to Extremism in Inter-War Europe,” European Journal of Political Research 39, no. 4 (2001)

Joseph H. Weiler , “The Transformation of Europe,” Yale Law Journal 100 (1991)

Alec Stone Sweet , The Judicial Construction of Europe (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004)

Alec Stone Sweet , Governing with Judges (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000)

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

World Politics
  • ISSN: 0043-8871
  • EISSN: 1086-3338
  • URL: /core/journals/world-politics
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 227 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 2197 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 23rd September 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.