Chapter 18: Narrative in the policy process
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Compelling stories are essential to policies, and as policies face challenges the stories change. This chapter discusses three distinct but intertwined themes: (i) policy as meta-narrative, (ii) policy as narration, and (iii) policy as narrative-networks. First, policymakers (and other actors) construct general stories that serve to capture and convey a policy initiative in a coherent, repeatable plot. But much of policy also emerges from the interpretive actions of street-level and other actors who actively narrate a policy into existence (possibly changing the script in the process). And, lastly, policy also takes the form of active communities, which we refer to as narrative-networks, which coalesce around a policy initiative and further its realization. These communities can challenge dominant policy narratives. We illustrate these ideas with the example of drug enforcement in the U.S., using contrasting narratives from the Reagan and Obama eras to dramatize the importance of narratives in the policy process.

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