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Politics in Time History, Institutions, and Social Analysis by Paul Pierson

Politics in Time History, Institutions, and Social Analysis


Politics in Time History, Institutions, and Social Analysis by Paul Pierson

This groundbreaking book represents the most systematic examination to date of the often-invoked but rarely examined declaration that history matters. Most contemporary social scientists unconsciously take a snapshot view of the social world. Yet the meaning of social events or processes is frequently distorted when they are ripped from their temporal context. Paul Pierson argues that placing politics in time--constructing moving pictures rather than snapshots--can vastly enrich our understanding of complex social dynamics, and greatly improve the theories and methods that we use to explain them. Politics in Time opens a new window on the temporal aspects of the social world. It explores a range of important features and implications of evolving social processes: the variety of processes that unfold over significant periods of time, the circumstances under which such different processes are likely to occur, and above all, the significance of these temporal dimensions of social life for our understanding of important political and social outcomes. Ranging widely across the social sciences, Pierson's analysis reveals the high price social science pays when it becomes ahistorical. And it provides a wealth of ideas for restoring our sense of historical process. By placing politics back in time, Pierson's book is destined to have a resounding and enduring impact on the work of scholars and students in fields from political science, history, and sociology to economics and policy analysis.


Maneuvering masterfully across diverse literatures and drawing on an extraordinary range of empirical cases, Pierson identifies key mechanisms that give meaning and precision to the often invoked but abstract claim that history matters. Through analysis and illustration, he provides new insights into exactly how, when, and why this is true. This is an enormously important and agenda-setting work. - Kathleen Thelen, Northwestern University; Politics in Time is a splendid book that will shape debates in political science and beyond for many years to come. It represents the most systematic and thorough statement on theorizing temporal processes in the social sciences ever written. Pierson sets new agendas by challenging researchers to take time seriously, especially those who work in analytic traditions that traditionally have been relatively atemporal. - James Mahoney, Brown University, author of The Legacies of Liberalism

About the Author

Paul Pierson is Harold Hitchings Burbank Professor of Political Economy at Harvard University. He is the author of numerous books, including Dismantling the Welfare State? which won the Gladys Kammerer Award in 1995 from the American Political Science Association for the best book on American national politics and policy.

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Book Info

Publication date

9th August 2004


Paul Pierson

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Princeton University Press


208 pages


Social theory
Social research & statistics
Political science & theory



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