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Raul P. Lejano and Sung Jin Park

Policy texts often mediate the intricate relationship between the crafting of a policy and its enactment. Such texts may serve as boundary objects that afford close interaction among policy actors. On the other hand, strongly textualist policy domains can rigidly disempower these same actors, leading to shallow, rather than deep, implementation. At their most extreme, autopoietic texts serve as vehicles for furthering ideological systems of thought. This approach affords a critical analysis of the hitherto unexamined effects of policy texts.
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Raul Lejano, Mrill Ingram and Helen Ingram

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.