The Dynamics of Public Policy
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The Dynamics of Public Policy

Theory and Evidence

Adrian Kay

In The Dynamics of Public Policy, Adrian Kay sets out the crucial methodological, theoretical and empirical implications of two important trends in the social sciences: a frequently expressed ambition for analysis of ‘movies not stills’ and the regular observation that policy, politics and governance is becoming more complex.
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Chapter 5: Structured Policy Narratives

Adrian Kay


What does a structured narrative consist of? The first section of the chapter considers this question and how its answer contributes to understanding and explaining policy dynamics. Section two is the major section of the chapter and examines methods for the microanalysis of the policy dynamics in a structured narrative. The final section investigates what makes a structured narrative convincing or valid, successful or true. These three sections allow the chapter to act both as a methodological guide for the empirical chapters that follow and as a conclusion to the preceding theoretical chapters. INGREDIENTS OF NARRATIVE EXPLANATION The basic material of a narrative is a chronicle: a list of things that happened in a chronological order. This list usually has some minimal organizing principle, such as the fact that the events happened in a particular place or to a particular organisation or person. Crucially, chronicles do not attempt to make sense of what happened whereas narratives, in contrast, are ‘a single coherent story, albeit with subplots’ (Stone 2001, p. 74). Narratives vary in ambition. A minimal narrative charts the sequence of events: how one leads to another with appropriate details of accidents, coincidences, and misapprehensions. The aim is to make the sequence, at some basic level, intelligible or coherent. A structured narrative contains the ambition to make sense of the sequence in terms of some greater interpretive scheme; for example, a normative frame of success or failure; or in terms of the direction and trajectory of policy; or type or...

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