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By Chris Skelcher;Helen Sullivan;Stephen Jeffares

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As an essentially cultural artefact, the logic of appropriateness thus sustains a collective sense of identity and solidarity through the repetition and reinforcement of rituals, forms of address and modes of behaviour. In contrast to the culture approach, the calculus model emphasises the level of investment needed to overcome the sunk costs in an institutional path and the increasing returns over time that arise (Pierson 2000a). However, it is the theory explaining the point of change that is most relevant to our discussion.

Subsequent developments in the literature have pointed to the problem of establishing what it is that holds together a movement for change. In other words, why do certain policy solutions attract support in relation to particular problems, and how does this enable sufficient momentum to effect change? Blyth’s (2002) work on ideas is important here; as we discuss later, emerging ideas offer a causal connection between a problem and a solution. Post-structural scholars such as Laclau and Mouffe (2003) present a parallel argument, although informed by a different theoretical position, by proposing that the construction of high-level signifiers enables a hegemonic discourse to become established, under conditions where the previous dominant discourse was not longer sufficiently able to represent events within its compass.

These, then, are the medium through which agency is exercised by situated actors, and the practices that result are emergent in the sense that they offer provisional solutions to the problem of accommodating progressive ideas to lagged institutions. Some may stick and eventually shift the institutional structures; others will decay without realising their transformative potential. Thus, we take the concept of practices as social habits informed by tacit knowledge and locate them specifically as a medium through which agency is expressed in constructing new proto-institutional forms of governance.

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