Access

You are not currently logged in.

Access your personal account or get JSTOR access through your library or other institution:

login

Log in to your personal account or through your institution.

If you need an accessible version of this item please contact JSTOR User Support

Increasing Returns, Path Dependence, and the Study of Politics

Paul Pierson
The American Political Science Review
Vol. 94, No. 2 (Jun., 2000), pp. 251-267
DOI: 10.2307/2586011
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2586011
Page Count: 17
  • Read Online (Free)
  • Subscribe ($19.50)
  • Cite this Item
If you need an accessible version of this item please contact JSTOR User Support
Increasing Returns, Path Dependence, and the Study of Politics
Preview not available

Abstract

It is increasingly common for social scientists to describe political processes as "path dependent." The concept, however, is often employed without careful elaboration. This article conceptualizes path dependence as a social process grounded in a dynamic of "increasing returns." Reviewing recent literature in economics and suggesting extensions to the world of politics, the article demonstrates that increasing returns processes are likely to be prevalent, and that good analytical foundations exist for exploring their, causes and consequences. The investigation of increasing returns can provide a more rigorous framework for developing some of the key claims of recent scholarship in historical institutionalism: Specific patterns of timing and sequence matter; a wide range of social outcomes may be possible; large consequences may result from relatively small or contingent events; particular courses of action, once introduced, can be almost impossible to reverse; and consequently, political development is punctuated by critical moments or junctures that shape the basic contours of social life.

Page Thumbnails

  • Thumbnail: Page 
251
    251
  • Thumbnail: Page 
252
    252
  • Thumbnail: Page 
253
    253
  • Thumbnail: Page 
254
    254
  • Thumbnail: Page 
255
    255
  • Thumbnail: Page 
256
    256
  • Thumbnail: Page 
257
    257
  • Thumbnail: Page 
258
    258
  • Thumbnail: Page 
259
    259
  • Thumbnail: Page 
260
    260
  • Thumbnail: Page 
261
    261
  • Thumbnail: Page 
262
    262
  • Thumbnail: Page 
263
    263
  • Thumbnail: Page 
264
    264
  • Thumbnail: Page 
265
    265
  • Thumbnail: Page 
266
    266
  • Thumbnail: Page 
267
    267