Document Type



Available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike 4.0 International Licence


5.6 POLITICAL SCIENCE, Political science

Publication Details

European Policy Analysis


This article examines the evolution of our understanding of the critical junctures concept. The concept finds its origins in historical intuitionalism, being employed in the context of path dependence to account for sudden and jarring institutional or policy changes. We argue that the concept and the literature surrounding it—now incorporating ideas, discourse, and agency—have gradually become more comprehensive and nuanced as historical institutionalism was followed by ideational historical institutionalism and constructivist and discursive institutionalism. The prime position of contingency has been supplanted by the role of ideas and agency in explaining critical junctures and other instances of less than transformative change. Consequently, the concept is now capable of providing more comprehensive explanations for policy change.