Critical Junctures and Historical Legacies
SHAPING THE POLITICAL ARENA: CRITICAL JUNCTURES, THE LABOR MOVEMENT, AND REGIME DYNAMICS IN LATIN AMERICA, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1991
7 Pages Posted: 30 Mar 2011
Date Written: 1991
The idea of crucial choices and their legacies has long intrigued students of political change. Numerous scholars have focused on major watersheds in political life, arguing that these transitions establish certain directions of change and foreclose others in a way that may shape politics for years to come. Such transitions can be called "critical junctures." In the context of comparative research, they may be defined as periods of significant change, which typically occur in distinct ways in different countries (or other units of analysis), and which are hypothesized to produce distinct legacies. This chapters lays out a framework for studying critical junctures, which calls for the systematic analysis of: a. Antecedent conditions, i.e., the base line against which the critical juncture and its legacy are assessed. b. The cleavage (or crisis) that emerges out of the antecedent conditions and in turn triggers the critical juncture. c. Three components of the legacy: Mechanisms of production, mechanisms of reproduction, and the stability of the legacy’s core attributes. d. Rival explanations, including what Stinchcombe calls "constant causes," together with the challenge of evaluating partial explanations in comparative-historical research. e. The duration of the legacy and its eventual end, which inevitably must occur at some point.
Structuring the analysis within this framework can yield a more rigorous comparative analysis of this important political phenomenon.
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