Ruth Berins Collier and David Collier, Shaping the Political Arena. (1991), Chapter 1

Summary: In analyzing the 8 countries looked at in this book, this study will apply a common analytical framework to each of them. This chapter establishes that framework. The need for such a framework derives from the surprising lack of attention to the problems that arise in assessing arguments about critical junctures and their legacies… Many pitfalls are encountered in assessing the descriptive and explanatory claims contained in critical junctures hypotheses.
Method: Lays out the theoretical framework of the book.
Important Insight: Issues in analyzing critical junctures: 1) Identifying Hypothesized Critical Juncture and Variations in How It Occurs; 2) How Long Do Critical Junctures Last?; 3) The Importance of Cleavages or Crises as Generators of Tension; 4) Specifying the Historical Legacy; 5) Duration of the Legacy; 6) Comparing the Legacy with the Antecedent System: Assessing Continuity and Change; 7) Assessing Rival Explanations (i.e. Constant Cause Explanations); and 8) The Problem of Partial Explanations.
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Notes
-key point of book: Following the tradition of studies in which critical junctures have played an important role on labour politics, this book applies the idea of critical junctures and their legacies to the evolution of 20th century politics in Latin America, focussing on a period of fundamental change in the relationship b/w the state and the labour movement. This change responded to two sets of cleavages: that b/w workers and owners and that b/w workers and the state, expressed in the emergence of worker organization and protest beginning in the late 19th century; and that b/w the middle sectors and oligarchy, expressed in the emergence of major reform movements in the first decades of the 20th century.
Chapter 1: Framework: Critical Junctures and Historical Legacies.
-Growing out of this new worker activation and these reform periods, there eventually emerged in each country the policy period we refer to as the ‘initial incorporation of the labour movement.’ This book argues that the incorporation periods constituted a critical juncture that occurred in distinct ways in different countries, and that these differences played a central role in shaping the national political arena in the following decades.
-***key point of chapter: in analyzing the 8 countries looked at in this book, this study will apply a common analytical framework to each of them. This chapter establishes that framework. The need for such a framework derives from the surprising lack of attention to the problems that arise in assessing arguments about critical junctures and their legacies… Many pitfalls are encountered in assessing the descriptive and explanatory claims contained in critical junctures hypotheses.
     -see headings below
-critical junctures and the perspectives from which they are analyzed vary greatly. Some may entail considerable discretion, whereas with others the presumed choice appears deeply embedded in antecedent conditions. The critical juncture may involve a relatively brief period in which one direction or another is taken or an extended period of reorientation. Some analyses stress underlying societal cleavages or crises that lead up to the critical juncture, whereas others focus primarily on the juncture itself. Finally, some critical junctures may be seen as coming close to making “all the difference”; more commonly, however, the effect of the critical juncture is intertwined with other processes of change.
-a critical juncture may be defined as a period of significant change, which typically occurs in distinct ways in different countries (or in other units of analysis) and which is hypothesized to present legacies.
-in addition to the three components of the definition, a number of further elements must be considered:
1) The antecedent conditions that represent a ‘base line’ against which the critical juncture and the legacy are assessed.
2) The cleavage (or crisis) that emerges out of the antecedent conditions and in turn triggers the critical juncture.
3)Three components of the legacy:
(a) mechanisms of production of the legacy (the legacy often does not crystallize immediately after the critical juncture, but rather is shaped through a series of intervening steps).
(b) mechanisms of reproduction of the legacy (the stability of the legacy is not an automatic outcome, but rather is perpetuated through ongoing institutional and political processes).
(c) the stability of the core attributes of the legacy (i.e. the basic attributes produced as an outcome of the critical juncture).
          4) Rival explanations involving ‘constant causes’.
          5) The eventual end of the legacy.
-issues in analyzing critical junctures:
1) Identifying Hypothesized Critical Juncture and Variations in How It Occurs.
-b/c it is essential to the concept of a critical juncture that it occurs in different ways in different cases, issues of establishing analytic equivalence, that are standard problems in comparative-historical research, are abundantly present in this type of analysis.
-The differences in how it occurred have to be large enough to produce interesting ‘variance’, yet this variance must not be so great as to undermine the idea that it really involves the same critical juncture.
-if the critical juncture is an immediate response to an external shock, it may occur more or less simultaneously across a number of countries and hence may be relatively easy to identify. However, the political responses even to such well-defined external events may occur quickly in some cases and be long delayed in others. Further, an external shock may impinge on different countries at different times. In either of these last two possibilities, the result is that the juncture occurs in different historical contexts, among which it may not be easy to establish analytic equivalence.
     2) How Long Do Critical Junctures Last?
-variation in duration depends in part on the immediate causal mechanisms involved, which may produce a type of change that crystallizes rapidly or gradually.
     3) Cleavage or Crisis.
-critical junctures are often viewed from the perspective of cleavages or crises, thereby placing particular emphasis on the tensions that lead to the critical juncture.
     4) Specifying the Historical Legacy
-the importance or lack of importance of a critical juncture cannot be established in general, but only with reference to a specific historical legacy.
     5) Duration of the Legacy
-In analyzing the legacy of the critical juncture, it is impt to recognize that no legacy lasts forever. Since legacies may vary in length across cases, this also raises the challenge of explaining this variation.
6) Comparing the Legacy with the Antecedent System: Assessing Continuity and Change
-In addition to carefully identifying the legacy, it is essential to compare it explicitly with the antecedent system. Even in revolutions, political systems are never completely transformed.
     7) Type of Explanation: Constant Causes vs Historical Causes
-The distinctive contribution of the critical juncture framework is its approach to explanation, which is based on ‘historical causes’, as contrasted with ‘constant causes’ (which operate consistently, having a continuing effect).
-one must also pay attention to the processes that reproduce the legacy of the historical cause. Four issues concerning the mechanism of reproduction should be underlined:
i) to the extent that the outcome or legacy involves political institutions, this emphasis on mechanisms of reproduction raises issues central to current discussions of the ‘new institutionalism’ and to debates on the relative autonomy of politics.
ii) the existence of these mechanisms of reproduction and the possibility of the relative autonomy of politics underscores why it is appropriate to construct a critical juncture framework to begin with… It is precisely b/c political structures often tenaciously resist change that we turn to the analysis of critical junctures.
iii) in applying the critical juncture framework to a particular domain of analysis, it is useful to specify distinctive features of these mechanisms of reproduction in that domain.
iv) it is useful to distinguish b/w the mechanisms of the reproduction and the production of the legacy.
     8) Rival Explanations: Constant Causes
          -must consider constant cause hypotheses as rival explanations.
     9) The Problem of Partial Explanations
-since this analysis is qualitative and cannot establish the exact % of variation explained by the hypothesis, the criterion must be that (in the case of similar cases) they look ‘sufficiently similar’ after the juncture to suggest that the hypothesis has partial explanatory power.
     10) Other Rival Explanations: The Example of Suppressor Variables
-these problems of dealing with partial explanations in comparative-historical analysis also arise in addressing rival explanations… Process-tracing can help here.