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Rethinking agency and structure in the study of regime change

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Abstract

The oscillation of the study of political regime change between voluntarist and structural approaches has increasingly led scholars to seek research strategies for synthesizing the two approaches. This article addresses the conceptual and practical difficulties of achieving such a synthesis by evaluating several strategies for integrating voluntarist and structural factors in the analysis of regime change. It examines competing ways of conceptualizing agency and structure and assesses the varied consequences that different conceptualizations have for explaining regime transformation. The article also analyzes three distinct strategies for integrating agency and structure: the funnel, path-dependent, and eclectic strategies. Each integrative strategy isanchored by a different conceptual base and has characteristic strengths and limitations. The conclusion explores future directions for developing integrative strategies.

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Additional information

The authors are listed in alphabetical order and share equal responsibility for the content of this analysis. We appreciate helpful comments and suggestions from Christopher Ansell, Ruth Berins Collier, Michael Bratton, David Collier, Larry Diamond, Giuseppe di Palma, Peter Evans, John Foran, Jeff Goodwin, Tomasz Grabowski, Ernst Haas, Stephan Haggard, Jonathan Hartlyn, Terry Karl, Steven Levitsky Juan Linz, Gerardo Munck, Pierre Ostiguy, Dietrich Rueschemeyer, Eric Selbin, Michael Sinatra, Jutta Weldes, Alexander Wendt, and Brendan Works.

James Mahoney is Assistant Professor of Sociology at Brown University. He is currently finishing a book that analyzes liberalism and regime change in five Central American countries during the 19th and 20th centuries. Richard Snyder is Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He has published numerous articles on both regime change and the politics of economic reform. He is currently completing a forthcoming book entitledPolitics after Neoliberalism.

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Mahoney, J., Snyder, R. Rethinking agency and structure in the study of regime change. St Comp Int Dev 34, 3–32 (1999). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02687620

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