Historical Context and Path Dependence

James Mahoney and Daniel Schensul

in The Oxford Handbook of Contextual Political Analysis

Published in print March 2006 | ISBN: 9780199270439
Published online September 2009 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks of Political Science

Historical Context and Path Dependence

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  • Comparative Politics
  • Political Institutions



This article looks into the relevance of the so-called path dependence and historical context in contextual political analysis. It analyzes the different meanings and uses of the concept of path dependence in contemporary academic discourse and uses the array of distinct understandings of path dependence as a means of specifying a number of ways in which historical context matters. It also identifies the strengths and weaknesses of different conceptualizations of path dependence and the trade-offs involved in adopting particular definitions of the concept. It discusses the relevant concepts of reactive sequence, self-reproducing sequences, and historical lock-in.

Keywords: path dependence; historical context; contextual political analysis; reactive sequence; self-reproducing sequences; historical lock-in

Article.  7403 words. 

Subjects: Politics ; Comparative Politics ; Political Institutions

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