Theorizing Path Dependence: A Review of Positive Feedback Mechanisms in Technology Markets, Regional Clusters, and Organizations

Industrial and Corporate Change, 22(3): 617-647

39 Pages Posted: 20 Oct 2012 Last revised: 24 Aug 2016

See all articles by Leonhard Dobusch

Leonhard Dobusch

Department of Organization and Learning

Elke Schüßler

Johannes Kepler University Linz

Date Written: 2012

Abstract

The concept of path dependence has often been criticized as vague and only narrowly applicable. Although we can find some very refined definitions of the concept, we also find a wide range of empirical phenomena being described as path-dependent. We argue that more detailed accounts of the positive feedback mechanisms that form paths can take path dependence beyond this state of being overdetermined, but under-specified. Reviewing three well-described cases of path-dependent dynamics in technology markets, regional clustering, and organizations, we define a core set of positive feedback mechanisms that constitute path dependence at different analysis levels and clarify the relationship between positive feedback and increasing returns. We show that path-dependent processes, that is, processes driven by positive feedback that veer toward rigidity or lock-in, can be (but do not have to be) found under many labels, including structural inertia, coevolution, or institutional persistence. We conclude that a precise definition of path dependence does not need to be at odds with the concept’s widespread use in understanding organizational and industrial development processes.

JEL Classification: L10, L20, M00, O10, O33, O43, R10

Suggested Citation

Dobusch, Leonhard and Schüßler, Elke, Theorizing Path Dependence: A Review of Positive Feedback Mechanisms in Technology Markets, Regional Clusters, and Organizations (2012). Industrial and Corporate Change, 22(3): 617-647. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2164314

Leonhard Dobusch

Department of Organization and Learning ( email )

Universitätsstraße 15
Innsbruck, Innsbruck 6020
Austria

HOME PAGE: http://https://www.uibk.ac.at/iol/index.html.en

Elke Schüßler (Contact Author)

Johannes Kepler University Linz ( email )

Altenberger Straße 69
Linz, 4040
Austria

Register to save articles to
your library

Register

Paper statistics

Downloads
11
Abstract Views
370
PlumX Metrics