9/11 as a Critical Juncture

 By Casper Gelderblom

“Today,” a French newspaper announced on September 12, 2001, “we are all Americans.” The terror of the previous day had felt like an attack on everyone, everywhere. Indeed, the shockwaves of “9/11” hit Europe hard. The attacks’ immense political salience led to the rapid adoption of a record number of joint EU security policies. Thus, the immediate aftermath of 9/11 can be seen as a critical juncture in the development of EU security governance. The course of this critical juncture, however, can only be fully understood if antecedent conditions are considered.

Capoccia and Kelemen attribute two main characteristics to critical junctures: they expand the range of choices open to political actors and, in Pierson’s words, “place institutional arrangements on paths (…) difficult to alter.” In the context of EU security policy, these characteristics neatly apply to 9/11’s immediate aftermath. Den Boer describes how after 9/11 “all of a sudden, decisions were possible” in the area of EU security governance. Emergency summits were organised and effective decisions were taken. Within two weeks from 9/11, EU member states agreed on an Action Plan on Counter-Terrorism, which contained over sixty joint European security policy measures. Before the 9/11 critical juncture, member states’ insistence on national sovereignty rendered such measures impossible. This placed EU security governance on a self-reinforcing path of increasing cooperation; Argomaniz describes how this path eventually led to the European Security Strategy launched in 2003 and the expansion of Europol competences in 2005.

Decisions made during the 9/11 critical juncture cannot entirely explain this development of EU security governance, as they depended on what
Mahoney calls antecedent conditions, which define the range of options available to actors in critical junctures. After 9/11, European policy-makers could either strengthen national policies or reconsider joint European designs they had blocked in 1999. Pressured to take swift action, policymakers favoured these pre-existing designs. Without considering the antecedent condition of the availability of these designs, the course of the 9/11 critical juncture cannot fully be understood.   

Child Marriage in Ethiopia: an Analysis of Critical Junctures

By Kelsey Bischot

Mahoney argues that when the choices of key actors are critical juncture points, it leads to the formation of institutions that have self-reproducing properties. Critical junctures are choice points when a particular option is adopted from among two or more alternatives. These critical points in time then lead to the structural persistence of institutions.

Critical junctures are usually thought of on a large scale, affecting central institutions and their countries, but I pose the importance of smaller critical junctures such as ones in villages created by “plain folk.”

When Aberash Bekele was 14 years old she had to make a decision that would impact not only her future, but the future of her village and women’s rights. Bekele was abducted from her home in a small village in Ethiopia (child abduction is an accepted method of marriage in Ethiopia) and was faced with a dark menu of options: either accept it like all the other girls in her village did before her, or escape and make her own future. In the end, she killed her abductor, but was arrested immediately and it took three years until the Ethiopian Women Lawyers Association was able to fight her case and release her. After this event, things changed dramatically in Bekele’s village. For the next seven to eight years, not one girl got abducted, because people knew that there were consequences. Thus, the institution against abduction changed from being widely disregarded to slowly becoming more accepted and followed in this small village. This could potentially be an institutional example for the rest of Ethiopia.

Mahoney argues that critical junctures will lead to the persistence of the institution, which so far has been the case in this small village in Ethiopia, but only time will tell if it truly produces an outcome of institutional change. 

Critical junctures in South Africa

By Kristy Charlton

A critical juncture is seen as the moment “when there are two possible choices to choose from and once selected it becomes difficult to return to the initial point when other alternatives were available”. At this juncture, change is possible.

On the 27th of April 1994, South Africa held their first multiracial democratic elections. The democratic elections saw the power shift to the social democratic political party known as the African National Congress (ANC) as well as the countries first black president Mr. Nelson Mandela. Before the rainbow nation was created, South Africa was a nation of segregating its race, land and its political ideals, this was known as Apartheid.

A critical juncture led to this shift in power from the National Party, consisting of an all-white government and promoting Afrikaner nationalism, to a social democratic multiracial political party.

During the ruling of the National Party from 1948 many demonstrations were held against the party and the police, one being the Sharpeville massacre where police opened fire on a group of unarmed blacks associated with the Pan-African Congress (PAC), an offshoot of the ANC. There were also demonstrations for having Afrikaans as the medium language of the country, another retaliation from the oppressed members of society.

The NP held power during an economic recession and on 1973 the United Nations denounced apartheid and heavy sanctions were placed on the country.

A combination of the sanctions, retaliation of the black communities, the rise of the ANC and the release of Nelson Mandela from Robin Island led to a critical juncture. This critical juncture led to a new constitution, elections that led to a coalition government with a non-white majority and the end to the apartheid system. The ANC shifted the country to a democracy; their power shift influenced a new constitution of fair and equal rights among all racial and gender groups.