7th Biennial ACSPRI Social Science Methodology Conference

Flavia Hanlen

Phd Candidate and Research Fellow at the Institute of Governance and Policy Analysis (IGPA), University of Canberra.


Multiple path dependences in policy trajectories: a conceptual framework

Historical Institutionalism (HI) adopts an empirical and contextualized approach to theory construction. Methodologically, it uses detailed historical process tracing and narrative analysis making cross-national structured comparisons of historical cases within and across countries, across different time periods to identify distinctive national trajectories. HI’s logic of analysis is based on a contextual and complex logic of causality.

In keeping with HI’s contextual and temporal logic of analysis, an analysis of path dependence processes allows for the identification and tracing causal links and mechanisms, as policy trajectories unfold over time. Path dependence is a pattern of causation that involves temporal sequencing and contextual and complex causal relations. This creates theoretical, methodological and empirical challenges for the application of path dependence analysis, requiring adaptation and development of methods that address this complexity and produce valid and useful explanations (Bennett and Elman, 2006; Hall, 2006).

Therefore, I propose a conceptual framework to investigate the unfolding trajectory of industry policy as a result of the interaction between three categories of path dependencies: ideational, institutional and social political economy. The framework uses path dependence theory, within a HI lens, to explain stability and change, by analysing three categories of path dependence. The aim with this conceptual framework is to understand and capture multiple and conjectural causation, and understand the factors that have shaped the trajectory of industry policy in Australia over time.