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Describing causal relations or processes characterized by historical contingency, producing or reinforcing systematic constraints.
In economics: “the idea of history as a branching process” leading to the selection of sub-optimal equilibria by dynamic processes (David, P.A, 2001); associated with technological 'lock-in' (Arthur, 1989), or, in the case of old industrial regions, overspecialization (Tödtling and Trippl, 2005).
In political science: Lacking consensus, but “four elements common to most accounts: causal possibility, contingency, closure and constraint” (Bennet and Elman, 2006). In institutions, requiring a “build-up of behavioral routines, social connections, or cognitive structures”(Page, 2006). In historical sociology, “those historical sequences in which contingent events set into motion institutional patterns or event chains that have deterministic properties,” the specification of which involves process tracing and “is always a theory-laden process” (Mahoney, 2000).