Process tracing and historical inquiry : policy-making sequences and 'possibilism'
Title: Process tracing and historical inquiry : policy-making sequences and 'possibilism'
Author: VENNESSON, Pascal
Series/Number: APSA; Annual Meeting Paper; 2010
Process tracing, a procedure designed to identify processes linking a set of initial conditions to a particular outcome, is an important, perhaps indispensable, element of case study research. The goal of this paper is to examine the relations between political science and history through the practices of process tracing and, more specifically, to explore how process tracing can help to uncover sequences in policy-making as well as unusual historical developments. Taking as an illustration the classical work of Albert Hirschman on economic policy-making and development in Latin America, I explore the potential contributions of process tracing to the study of sequences of policy-making and what he called "possibilism," that is the existence of "(…) paths, however narrow, leading to an outcome that appears to be foreclosed on the basis of probabilistic reasoning alone" (Hirschman, 1992: 173).
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