The Evolution of Path Dependence

The Evolution of Path Dependence

New Horizons in Institutional and Evolutionary Economics series

Edited by Lars Magnusson and Jan Ottosson

The notion and interpretation of path dependence have been discussed and utilized in various social sciences during the last two decades. This innovative book provides significant new insights onto how the different applications of path dependence have developed and evolved. The authors suggest that there has been a definite evolution from applications of path dependence in the history of technology towards other fields of social science. They also discuss the various definitions of path dependence (strong or weak) and explore the potential applications of path dependence in new areas such as political economy and economic geography.

Chapter 5: The Deceptive Juncture: The Temptation of Attractive Explanations and the Reality of Political Life

Per Ola Öberg and Kajsa Adu Hallberg

Subjects: economics and finance, evolutionary economics


PerOla Öberg and Kajsa Hallberg Adu To assert that ‘history matters’ is insufficient: social scientists want to know why, where, and how. (Pierson, 2000a, p. 72) OUTLINE The following chapter discusses path-dependence theory in relation to analysis of political processes, suggesting that path-dependence explanations are only sometimes helpful, but often overlook critical features of political life. We argue that a path-dependence approach has to take into account rational actors in a broader way, and in so doing would make a great difference. Furthermore, we discuss the nature of chance – whether it is continuous or non-continuous, exogenous or endogenous, common or rare – and propose that this part of the theory should be more elaborated. Accordingly, this has consequences for how we view one of the cornerstones of path dependence: in our view, there are good reasons to be more careful about singling out critical junctures. We illustrate our position with three empirical cases often used in pathdependence discussions. These three cases are examples of central components of the Swedish model. Before concluding, we discuss what methods are suitable for understanding stability and change. However, before doing that, we briefly review some of the recent path-dependence studies and take a closer look at the ideas that have transitioned from economics. POLITICS, HISTORY AND DIFFERENT PATHS From the birth of the discipline, scholars of politics have gone back in time to be able to, with history, explain more current events. For instance Marx, Hegel, Weber, Durkheim and, later, Almond and Verba, Huntington and...

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