The social construction of transformative political events

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Comparative political scientists have sought to remedy their subdiscipline’s structuralist tendencies by paying greater analytical attention to transformative political events. Yet, our conceptual understanding of events remains rudimentary. The article addresses this conceptual gap in two ways. First, it foregrounds symbolic meaning-making as the constitutive attribute of events. Second, it demonstrates that events are not inherently agency-facilitating by developing the concept of prospectively framed events. These are occurrences that actors know will take place, but of whose outcome they are uncertain. Political challengers frame the upcoming event so as to discursively trap incumbents into political action they would rather not undertake. The article demonstrates this process by tracing the conflict between secessionist challengers and political incumbents within the Catalan nationalist movement between 2006 and 2010. The concluding section discusses the causal implications of the argument.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1243-1278
Number of pages36
JournalComparative Political Studies
Issue number10
Early online date15 Nov 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2018


  • events
  • critical junctures
  • discourse analysis
  • nationalism
  • Catalonia


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