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Aaron Smith-Walter and Michael D. Jones

In an influential article published in the American Political Science Review in December 1970, Giovanni Sartori observed that political scientists were uncritically applying categories developed in one context to those of another. Sartori argued that this practice of conceptual stretching was leading to concepts being applied to political systems where the fit was inappropriate, leading to findings so obvious as to defy utility. Many scholars argue that conceptual stretching continues to be a problem for the study of public policy today. This chapter argues that the Narrative Policy Framework (NPF) provides comparative public policy scholars an approach capable of addressing the problem Sartori identified. To make this case the authors first detail the theoretical and conceptual scaffolding of the NPF. Next, they explore the universal nature of narrative in human cognition and communication by examining narrative rationality, narrative persuasion, and narrative’s relationship to behaviour. They then discuss the NPF’s potential application in comparative public policy analyses. The authors argue that the NPF’s epistemological and methodological flexibility, in addition to its ability to move up and down levels of abstraction, make it a desirable framework to apply in comparative public policy. The chapter closes by reviewing extant NPF comparative scholarship and speaking to some of the limitations the framework may have in comparative analyses.