Path dependence has been employed more frequently in the field of foreign policy analysis, though it is still an emerging framework. The roots of path dependence are traced from the physical sciences and economics to the social sciences, and finally, foreign policy. The basic assumptions of path dependence are summarized, including the role of critical junctures, increased returns, and policy legacies that are produced and reproduced by a variety of causal mechanisms. The preferred methods employed by path dependence scholars are briefly outlined; framework’s applicability to the study of politics is addressed, and the major critiques of path dependence are reviewed. This leads to the general conclusion that despite conceptual and methodological challenges in the area of foreign policy, there is definite “value added” in path-dependent approaches.
Anika C. Leithner and Kyle M. Libby
Thomas Christiansen and Amy Verdun
Since the 1990s, historical institutionalism has established itself as a frequently used approach in the study of European integration. One basic tenet of those who use this approach is to take history seriously in the study of European integration—in particular how historical choices on institutionalizing particular procedures and policies explain subsequent patterns of agency. Looking at the manner in which time and institutional structures affect outcomes is central in this approach. In the context of the European Union (EU), the works that have adopted this approach have typically examined developments in policies and institutions over time. While sharing with other institutionalist approaches (such as rational choice and sociological institutionalism) the recognition that “institutions matter,” historical institutionalism introduced particular concepts such as “path dependence” and “critical juncture” into the study of the EU. The distinct contribution here is the capacity of historical institutionalism to explain the persistence of institutional structures and the continuity of policies as well as the reasons for change. In the study of European integration, this approach has been adopted in many areas of research, ranging from studies about the legal foundations of the EU, the workings within institutions of the EU, the process of enlargement, to analyses of various sectors of EU policy-making, and the study of the multiple crises confronting the integration project in the 2010s.