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Article

Anika C. Leithner and Kyle M. Libby

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.