Pub. date: 2007 | Online Pub. Date: September 15, 2007 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412952613 | Print ISBN: 9781412905794 | Online ISBN: 9781412952613| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Path dependence is an approach to understanding how organizations, institutions, or technologies become “locked in” to particular choices as a result of their structural properties or beliefs and values. Path dependence begins with a straightforward assertion that “history matters” in studies of governance and then attempts to explain exactly how history matters through studies of the means through which constraints on normal behavior in organizational life appear and the form that these constraints take. It has been used to study how the QWERTY keyboard became dominant (despite its suboptimality in terms of typing speed on today's computers) through how studies of policy change in health care and welfare systems. Path dependence is most often used as a concept by studies based around the historical institutionalist approach to political science, with its attendant focus on how institutions come to constrain organizational life. It has become a key concept to explain why ...