Diagrammatical Approaches to Operationalising Historical Institutionalism as a Method in Comparative Politics

Michael De Percy, Stephen Darlington

Research output: Contribution to conference (non-published works)Paper


Historical institutionalism is often regarded as the least rigorous and the more tautological of the ‘new institutionalisms’, but this reputation is undeserved. We argue that historical institutionalism, when viewed as a method for, rather than a theory of, examining institutional stasis and change, can provide a rigorous approach to process tracing that is useful in examining the impact of institutional legacies on contemporary political issues. Famous historical institutionalist scholars, including Kathleen Thelen, suggest that systematic approaches to comparative temporal analyses can help to overcome the shortcomings of the inductive method in comparative politics. While many comparative political studies adopt historical institutionalism as an approach to examining temporal sequencing, few studies specify how historical institutionalism is used as a method and even fewer do so explicitly. Borrowing from other disciplines that have a long history of using diagrams to explain changes to the status quo, this paper examines the benefits of adopting visual heuristics to operationalise historical institutionalism in comparative political studies. Benefits include a systematic approach to capturing past legacies that inform present choices, identifying key periods of stasis and change, and identifying the specific exogenous and endogenous pressures and tensions that result in critical junctures within a temporal sequence.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages16
Publication statusPublished - 23 Sept 2021
EventAustralian Political Studies Association Conference 2021: Politics in an age of uncertainty - Macquarie University [online], Sydney, Australia
Duration: 19 Sept 202122 Sept 2021


ConferenceAustralian Political Studies Association Conference 2021
Abbreviated titleAusPSA2021
Internet address


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