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Neo-Statecraft Theory, Historical Institutionalism and Institutional Change

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  17 July 2014


This article provides a critical examination of the contribution that statecraft theory, which has been subject to recent revision and development, makes to the literature on institutional change. It articulates an emergent neo-statecraft approach that offers an agent-led form of historical institutionalism. This overcomes the common criticism that historical institutionalists underplay the creative role of actors. The article also argues that the approach brings back into focus the imperatives of electoral politics as a source of institutional change and provides a macro theory of change which is also commonly missing from historical institutionalist work. It can therefore identify previously unnoticed sources of stability and change, especially in states with strong executives and top-down political cultures.

Copyright © The Author(s). Published by Government and Opposition Limited and Cambridge University Press 2014 

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Toby S. James is a Lecturer in British and Comparative Politics at the University of East Anglia. Contact email:



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