Volume 22, Issue 1
  • ISSN 1569-2159
  • E-ISSN: 1569-9862
Buy:$35.00 + Taxes



Studies of institutional change identify critical junctures from the position of hindsight. But this perspective prioritises antecedent factors that downplay the role of agency around moments of potential change. This article looks at changes in the ways in which agents use temporal language to identify events or periods as moments of (possible) juncture. It combines quantitative and qualitative methods of text analysis, drawing on a corpus of British parliamentary speeches from 1811–2019. The article first analyses changes in the strategic use of the term crisis over time, paying particular attention to significant shifts in its politicisation and temporalisation. It then identifies three distinct components to the contestation of crises: over their identification, evaluation and proposed prescriptions. We suggest that studies of critical juncture ought to focus more on the use of temporal language around possible junctures to better understand the political dynamics at moments of heightened uncertainty.


Article metrics loading...

Loading full text...

Full text loading...


  1. ’t Hart, Paul, and Karen Tindall
    2009Framing the Global Economic Downturn, Canberra: Australian National University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  2. Abbott, Andrew
    2001Time Matters: On Theory and Method, Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  3. Acemoglu, Daron, and James Robinson
    2012Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity and Poverty, New York: Crown Publishers.
    [Google Scholar]
  4. Basta, Karlo
    2017 “The Social Construction of Transformative Political Events.” Comparative Political Studies, 51(10): 1243–1278. 10.1177/0010414017740601
    https://doi.org/10.1177/0010414017740601 [Google Scholar]
  5. Bennett, Samuel
    2019 ‘Crisis’ as a Discursive Strategy in Brexit Referendum Campaigns. Critical Discourse Studies, 16 (4): 449–64. 10.1080/17405904.2019.1591290
    https://doi.org/10.1080/17405904.2019.1591290 [Google Scholar]
  6. Bernhard, Michael
    2015 “Chronic Instability and the Limits of Path Dependence.” Perspectives on Politics, 13(4): 976–91. 10.1017/S1537592715002261
    https://doi.org/10.1017/S1537592715002261 [Google Scholar]
  7. Blyth, Mark
    2003 “Structures Do Not Come with an Instruction Sheet: Interests, Ideas, and Progress in Political Science.” Perspectives on Politics, 1(4): 695–706. 10.1017/S1537592703000471
    https://doi.org/10.1017/S1537592703000471 [Google Scholar]
  8. Capoccia, Giovanni
    2015 Critical Junctures and Institutional Change. InAdvances in Comparative Historical Analysis, edited byJames Mahoney and Kathleen Thelen: 147–79. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 10.1017/CBO9781316273104.007
    https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781316273104.007 [Google Scholar]
  9. Capoccia, Giovanni, and Daniel Kelemen
    2007 “The Study of Critical Junctures: Theory, Narrative, and Counterfactuals in Historical Institutionalism.” World Politics, 59 (3): 341–69. 10.1017/S0043887100020852
    https://doi.org/10.1017/S0043887100020852 [Google Scholar]
  10. Clemens, Elisabeth
    1993 “Organizational Repertoires and Institutional Change: Women’s Groups and the Transformation of US Politics, 1890–1920.” American Journal of Sociology, 98(4): 755–98. 10.1086/230089
    https://doi.org/10.1086/230089 [Google Scholar]
  11. 2015 “Organizing Powers in Eventful Times.” Social Science History, 39(1): 1–24. 10.1017/ssh.2015.39
    https://doi.org/10.1017/ssh.2015.39 [Google Scholar]
  12. Collier, Ruth, and David Collier
    1991Shaping the Political Arena: Critical Junctures, the Labor Movement, and Regime Dynamics in Latin America, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  13. De Giorgi, Elisabetta, and Gabriella Ilonszki
    (eds.) 2018Opposition Parties in European Legislatures: Conflict Or Consensus?, London: Routledge. 10.4324/9781315561011
    https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315561011 [Google Scholar]
  14. De Rycker, Antoon, and Zuraidah Mohd Don
    2013Discourse and Crisis: Critical Perspectives: John Benjamins Publishing. 10.1075/dapsac.52
    https://doi.org/10.1075/dapsac.52 [Google Scholar]
  15. Della Porta, Donatella; Gattinara, Pietro Castelli; Eleftheriadis, Konstantinos and Andrea Felicetti
    2020Discursive Turns and Critical Junctures: Debating Citizenship after the Charlie Hebdo Attacks, Oxford: Oxford University Press. 10.1093/oso/9780190097431.001.0001
    https://doi.org/10.1093/oso/9780190097431.001.0001 [Google Scholar]
  16. Dewan, Torun, and Arthur Spirling
    2011 “Strategic Opposition and Government Cohesion in Westminster Democracies.” American Political Science Review, 105(2): 337–58. 10.1017/S0003055411000050
    https://doi.org/10.1017/S0003055411000050 [Google Scholar]
  17. Ewing, Blake
    2021 “Conceptual History, Contingency and the Ideological Politics of Time.” Journal of Political Ideologies, 26(3): 262–77. 10.1080/13569317.2020.1855766
    https://doi.org/10.1080/13569317.2020.1855766 [Google Scholar]
  18. Freeden, Michael
    1996Ideologies and Political Theory: A Conceptual Approach, Oxford: Oxford Clarendon Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  19. 2009Liberal Languages: Ideological Imaginations and Twentieth-Century Progressive Thought, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. 10.1515/9781400826353
    https://doi.org/10.1515/9781400826353 [Google Scholar]
  20. Goet, Niels
    2019 “Measuring Polarization with Text Analysis: Evidence from the UK House of Commons, 1811–2015.” Political Analysis, 27(4): 1–22. 10.1017/pan.2019.2
    https://doi.org/10.1017/pan.2019.2 [Google Scholar]
  21. Hay, Colin
    1996 “Narrating Crisis: The Discursive Construction of the ‘Winter of Discontent’.” Sociology, 30(2): 253–77. 10.1177/0038038596030002004
    https://doi.org/10.1177/0038038596030002004 [Google Scholar]
  22. 1999 “Crisis and the Structural Transformation of the State: Interrogating the Process of Change.” British Journal of Politics & International Relations, 1(3): 317–44. 10.1111/1467‑856X.00018
    https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-856X.00018 [Google Scholar]
  23. Hix, Simon, and Abdul Noury
    2016 “Government-Opposition or Left-Right? the Institutional Determinants of Voting in Legislatures.” Political Science Research and Methods, 4(2): 249–73. 10.1017/psrm.2015.9
    https://doi.org/10.1017/psrm.2015.9 [Google Scholar]
  24. Hogan, John
    2019 “The Critical Juncture Concept’s Evolving Capacity to Explain Policy Change.” European Policy Analysis, 5(2): 170–89. 10.1002/epa2.1057
    https://doi.org/10.1002/epa2.1057 [Google Scholar]
  25. Hunt, Lynn
    1984Politics, Culture, and Class in the French Revolution, Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  26. Kalyvas, Stathis
    1996The Rise of Christian Democracy in Europe, Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. 10.7591/9781501731419
    https://doi.org/10.7591/9781501731419 [Google Scholar]
  27. Katznelson, Ira
    2003 Periodization and Preferences: Reflections on Purposive Action in Comparative Historical Social Science. InComparative Historical Analysis in the Social Sciences, edited byJames Mahoney and Dietrich Rueschemeyer, D1: 270–301. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 10.1017/CBO9780511803963.009
    https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511803963.009 [Google Scholar]
  28. Keeler, John
    1993 “Opening the Window for Reform – Mandates, Crises, and Extraordinary Policy-Making.” Comparative Political Studies, 25(4): 433–86. 10.1177/0010414093025004002
    https://doi.org/10.1177/0010414093025004002 [Google Scholar]
  29. Koselleck, Reinhart
    1988Critique and Crisis: Enlightenment and the Pathogenesis of Modern Society, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  30. 2004 [1985]Futures Past: On the Semantics of Historical Time, New York: Columbia University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  31. Koselleck, Reinhart, and Richter, Michaela
    2006 Crisis. Journal of the History of Ideas, 67(2): 357–400. 10.1353/jhi.2006.0013
    https://doi.org/10.1353/jhi.2006.0013 [Google Scholar]
  32. Krawatzek, Félix
    2018Youth in Regime Crisis: Comparative Perspectives from Russia to Weimar Germany, Oxford: Oxford University Press. 10.1093/oso/9780198826842.001.0001
    https://doi.org/10.1093/oso/9780198826842.001.0001 [Google Scholar]
  33. Krzyżanowska, Natalia, and Michał Krzyżanowski
    2018 “‘Crisis’ and Migration in Poland: Discursive Shifts, Anti-Pluralism and the Politicisation of Exclusion.” Sociology, 52(3): 612–18. 10.1177/0038038518757952
    https://doi.org/10.1177/0038038518757952 [Google Scholar]
  34. Krzyżanowski, Michał
    2019 “Brexit and the Imaginary of ‘crisis’: A Ciscourse-Conceptual Analysis of European News Media.” Critical Discourse Studies, 16(4): 465–90. 10.1080/17405904.2019.1592001
    https://doi.org/10.1080/17405904.2019.1592001 [Google Scholar]
  35. Mahoney, James
    2000 “Path Dependence in Historical Sociology.” Theory and Society, 29(4): 507–48. 10.1023/A:1007113830879
    https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1007113830879 [Google Scholar]
  36. 2001The Legacies of Liberalism: Path Dependence and Political Regimes in Central America, Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  37. Mann, Michael
    1986The Sources of Social Power. Vol. I A History of Power from the Beginning to A.D. 1760, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  38. Matthijs, Matthias
    2012Ideas and Economic Crises in Britain from Attlee to Blair (1945–2005), Abingdon: Routledge. 10.4324/9780203842744
    https://doi.org/10.4324/9780203842744 [Google Scholar]
  39. McAdam, Doug, and William Sewell
    2001 It’s about Time: Temporality in the Study of Social Movements and Revolutions. Silence and voice in the study of contentious politics, 891, p.125. 10.1017/CBO9780511815331.005
    https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511815331.005 [Google Scholar]
  40. Moffitt, Benjamin
    2015 “How to Perform Crisis: A Model for Understanding the Key Role of Crisis in Contemporary Populism.” Government and Opposition, 50(2): 189–217. 10.1017/gov.2014.13
    https://doi.org/10.1017/gov.2014.13 [Google Scholar]
  41. Parnell, Tamsin
    2021 “Humiliating and Dividing the Nation in the British Pro-brexit Press: A Corpus-Assisted Analysis.” Critical Discourse Studies: 1–17. 10.1080/17405904.2021.1983446
    https://doi.org/10.1080/17405904.2021.1983446 [Google Scholar]
  42. Pierson, Paul
    2004Politics in Time: History, Institutions, and Social Analysis, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. 10.1515/9781400841080
    https://doi.org/10.1515/9781400841080 [Google Scholar]
  43. Riker, William
    1986The Art of Political Manipulation, New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  44. Roitman, Janet
    2014Anti-Crisis, Durham: Duke University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  45. Ruzza, Carlo, and Milica Pejovic
    2019 “Populism at Work: The Language of the Brexiteers and the European Union.” Critical Discourse Studies16(4): 432–48. 10.1080/17405904.2019.1605300
    https://doi.org/10.1080/17405904.2019.1605300 [Google Scholar]
  46. Saward, Michael
    2017 “Agency, Design and ‘Slow Democracy’.” Time & Society, 26(3): 362–83. 10.1177/0961463X15584254
    https://doi.org/10.1177/0961463X15584254 [Google Scholar]
  47. Schmidt, Vivien
    2008 “Discursive Institutionalism: The Explanatory Power of Ideas and Discourse.” Annual Review of Political Science, 11(1): 303–26. 10.1146/annurev.polisci.11.060606.135342
    https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev.polisci.11.060606.135342 [Google Scholar]
  48. Schwarz, Daniel; Traber, Denise, and Benoit, Kenneth
    2015 “Estimating Intra-Party Preferences: Comparing Speeches to Votes.” Political Science Research and Methods, 5(2): 379–96. 10.1017/psrm.2015.77
    https://doi.org/10.1017/psrm.2015.77 [Google Scholar]
  49. Sewell, William
    1996 Three Temporalities: Toward en Eventful Sociology. In: McDonald, T. (ed.) The Historic Turn in the Human Sciences. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press: 245–80.
    [Google Scholar]
  50. Slater, Dan, and Erica Simmons
    2010 “Informative Regress: Critical Antecedents in Comparative Politics.” Comparative Political Studies, 43(7): 886–917. 10.1177/0010414010361343
    https://doi.org/10.1177/0010414010361343 [Google Scholar]
  51. Turner, John D.
    2014Banking in Crisis: The Rise and Fall of British Banking Stability, 1800 to the Present, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 10.1017/CBO9781139380874
    https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781139380874 [Google Scholar]
  52. Weingast, Barry
    2005 Persuasion, Preference Change, and Critical Junctures: The Microfoundations of a Macroscopic Concept. In: Katznelson, I. & Weingast, B. (eds.) Preferences and situations:161–84. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.
    [Google Scholar]
  53. Yashar, Deborah
    1994Demanding Democracy: Reform and Reaction in Costa Rica and Guatemala, Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  54. Zahariadis, Nikolaos
    2003Ambiguity and Choice in Public Policy: Political Decision Making in Modern Democracies, Washington, DC: Georgetown university press.
    [Google Scholar]
  55. Zappettini, Franco, and Krzyżanowski, Michał
    2019The Critical Juncture of Brexit in Media & Political Discourses: From National-Populist Imaginary to Cross-National Social and Political Crisis. Taylor & Francis.
    [Google Scholar]

Data & Media loading...

This is a required field
Please enter a valid email address
Approval was successful
Invalid data
An Error Occurred
Approval was partially successful, following selected items could not be processed due to error