How Does A Policy Mean?

cover art
288 pp., 6 x 9
ISBN: 9780878406128 (0878406123)

January 1997
LC: 95-42087



How Does A Policy Mean?
Interpreting Policy and Organizational Actions
Dvora Yanow
This book offers a new, interpretive way of understanding organizations and policy by analyzing how they convey meaning through symbolic language, objects, and act. Yanow argues that contested facts in policy often reflect different policy meanings, which are often known tacitly and communicated through the symbols used by an implementing organization.

Yanow argues that policy and organizational actions are often as expressive of group or national identity as they are instrumentally oriented. Drawing on the Israel Corporation of Community Centers as an extended illustration of her arguments, she shows how policy meanings may be communicated to multiple audiences through the agency's actions. Using language, physical artifacts, and acts, Yanow explores how one vision of Israeli identity was communicated tacitly, at a time when Jewish Israeli "ethnicity" was publicly undiscussable. In reading public policies and administrative practices as ways in which a polity constructs and narrates its identity, Yanow shows how the case example raises questions of what it means to be a "good" Israeli.

Unlike most policy studies which consider organizations within a void, How Does a Policy Mean? puts policy in a societal context. Yanow's interpretation of the policy process extends beyond the field of public policy to examine the way organizations establish identity and image for themselves and for the wider public. Her analysis will be of value to those involved in political science, public administration, and organizational studies.
"Offers an innovative and enlightening approach to understanding how public policies, which are always ambiguous, come to have particular meanings for diverse audiences. . . . The book is especially cogent in its discussion of interpretation, offering one of the most impressive analyses of that key process I know. . . . [Yanow] contributes insightfully to our understanding of political language and symbolism."—Murray Edelman, professor emeritus of political science, University of Wisconsin