Institutional Changes from a Comparative Historical Perspective

A series of conferences by Kathleen THELEN1 



Drift and Conversion: Hidden Faces of Institutional Change

As part of  the seminar « Political Economy of Institutional Change » organised by Elvire Guillaud, Jérôme Bourdieu, Thibault Darcillon et Marco Ranaldi.

Recent work in political science has attempted to provide greater insight into how institutions evolve and how institutional effects can change over time. Instead of seeing institutions as largely unchanging features of the political environment, these arguments seek to specify what kinds of institutional changes propelled by what kinds of social processes are most likely under what kinds of political configurations. In prior writings, we have explored two such modes of institutional change — drift (Hacker 2005; Hacker and Pierson 2010, 2011) and conversion (Thelen 2004; Streeck and Thelen 2005) — largely as separate processes. Our collaboration here presents a unified perspective that draws on new research and theory to outline the scope and importance of drift and conversion, the basic structural conditions under which we should expect each, and the relationships between the two. We argue that studying drift and conversion in tandem highlights underappreciated aspects not just of institutional change, but also of democratic politics. Examined together, these two processes of “hidden change” alter our view of who is playing offense and defense in ongoing struggles over institutional change, the venues in which contestation occurs, the types of actors who are advantaged in such struggles, and the ability of the mass public to monitor and influence these highly consequential battles.

  • Venue: Friday 3 June 2016, 11:00 – 12:30 – Centre d’Economie de la Sorbonne (room 18) – 106-112, boulevard de l’Hôpital 75013 Paris.

Comparative Historical Analysis in Contemporary Political Science

As part of  the seminar « Capitalismes asiatiques: diversité et changement institutionnel » organised by Sébastien Lechevalier.

This seminar will be based on the introduction to an edited volume (Advances in Comparative Historical Analysis, ed by James Mahoney and Kathleen Thelen. Cambridge University Press, 2015. Against the backdrop of an explosion of interest in new techniques for data collection and theory testing, the volume provides a programmatic statement about comparative-historical analysis. It examines the advances and distinctive contributions that CHA has made to theory generation and the explanation of large-scale outcomes that newer approaches often regard as empirically intractable. The introductory essay locates the sources of CHA’s enduring influence in core characteristics that distinguish this approach, including its attention to process, its commitment to empirically grounded, deep case-based research, and it longstanding emphasis on the temporal dimension to the study of politics.

  • Venue: Wednesday 8 June 2016, 13:00 – 15:00 – EHESS (room 638) – 190-198, avenue de France 75013 Paris.

Varieties of Liberalization and the New Politics of Social Solidarity

As part of the seminar « Les réformes de la protection sociale : perspectives internationales comparées » organised by Yohann Aucante.

An examination of contemporary changes in labor market institutions, in particular—industrial relations, vocational education and training and labor market policy – with an emphasis on Germany and Denmark. While confirming a broad shared liberalizing trend, there are in fact distinct varieties of liberalization associated with very different distributive outcomes. Contrary to the conventional wisdom, the successful defense of the institutions traditionally asosociated with coordinated capitalism has often been a recipe for increased inequality due to declining coverage and dualization. Conversely, some forms of labor market liberalization are perfectly compatible with continued high levels of social solidarity and indeed may be necessary to susstain it.

  • Venue: Thursday 9 June 2016, 15:00 -17:00 – EHESS (room 4) – 105, boulevard Raspail 75006 Paris.

Doctoral session

  • Venue: Thursday 16 June 2016, 15:00 à 18:00 – EHESS (room 662) – 190-198, avenue de France 75013 Paris

More information

1. [Ford Professor of Political Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Directrice d’étude invitée at the EHESS]

Citer ce billet
Soulia Bentouhami (2016, 30 mai). Institutional Changes from a Comparative Historical Perspective. INCAS. Consulté le 14 avril 2024, à l’adresse

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