ABSTRACT

An important part of our approach to forest policy is the examination of ‘policy narratives’ or stories told by different protagonists. These are not ‘just talk’ or inventions for others’ amusement, but persuasive constructions with a beginning (assumptions, problem framing, choice of issues, etc), a development (argumentation, supporting evidence, justifications, troublesome side issues and other relevant circumstances) and a conclusion (what should be done and policy recommendations). They use some facts, are ignorant of or deselect others, and interpret information in a particular manner in order to tell a persuasive and consistent story. They frame issues and problems in certain ways to focus on some issues and to exclude others. This may be done either consciously, as a strategy, or unconsciously, where the author has a particular set of facts and values that are not critically reflected on. Narratives are used in policy-making as much as in everyday life. They are a way of making sense of an uncertain, complex and contested world. In a more strategic sense, narratives may also be a means of persuading others. In no way is the labelling of an account as a ‘narrative’ meant to be derogatory or to imply falsehood or fantasy. On the other hand, however, we cannot assume that we know the actors’ intention from our interpretation of what they say. As Chapter 2 has illustrated, forest policy is complex, with many competing political representations and political ecologies at different scales, and narratives fulfil important objectives for the actors involved. Narratives serve to stabilize their expectations and provide secure moorings in a shifting and sometimes threatening world; but they also perform representative and political purposes in the exercise of power by persuasion. Narrative analysis is therefore well suited for the treatment of policy (see Roe, 1994; Hajer, 1995; Apthorpe and Gaspar, 1996; Forsyth, 2003).