Who? I am Thomas Prosser, a Professor of European social policy at Cardiff University.

What? The Path Not Taken analyses politics through the lens of institutional theory. Popular across the social sciences, institutional theory emphasizes the influence of social structures on political processes.

Famously, institutional theorists underline path dependence (hence the Substack name!), the tendency for present outcomes to reflect past outcomes which results from a lock-in effect. Critical juncture theory, another key part of institutional theory, evaluates the turning points that create path dependencies.   

Therefore, I emphasize structural explanations, contrary to the attention to parties and personalities which one finds in the media. In my opinion, this enables more accurate analysis.

Politically, I am economically centre-left and culturally centrist/centre-right. I see these positions as complementary and, following Edmund Burke, regard rapid change as unsettling. My big idea is that the uncertain context of the 21st century strengthens the case for cautious policymaking.

I write in two broad areas. Firstly, I write about politics, evaluating developments in institutional terms. For example, I have examined the growing danger of political tribes, arguing that the diffusion of left-right divisions throughout society extends political conflict, and obstacles to Britain rejoining the EU, asserting that Brexit path dependency will involve the creation of groups of voters who are committed to the new status quo.

Secondly, I write about the culture war. A persisting concern is liberal democracy, recent attacks on freedom of speech troubling me. I worry about right and left, though find myself writing more about the left, given my conservative leanings on culture. For example, I have written about declining liberal support for freedom of speech and the diffusion of bad ideas within academia, reflecting the dominance of left-liberalism in postmaterial societies and academia.  

I try to write about topics which are relevant across the West, but, as a British citizen and resident, often analyze developments in Britain. 

When? I try to publish something every week, sometimes managing more than one piece! But when I write something longer, there can be a gap of weeks between posts.

If you like my Substack, please think about spreading the word. You can share on social media (my Twitter is @prossertj) and, if you write your own Substack, might recommend or crosspost me. This Substack is 100% free, unlike most, making it a labour of love. But I still love getting subscribers 😊😊😊

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Politics through the lens of institutional theory


Professor at Cardiff University and author of The Path Not Taken, a (free) Substack which analyzes politics through the lens of institutional theory.