A hermeneutic approach to explaining and understanding public controversies

Raul P. Lejano, Ching Leong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Notwithstanding the growing use of interpretive analysis in public administration and policy research, its fullest potential for evaluating intractable public conflict has yet to be tapped. We develop a mode of narrative analysis, partly based upon Paul Ricoeur's hermeneutics, that shows promise for analyzing public disputes. We illustrate this with a case study in Los Angeles involving a contentious proposal to inject recycled wastewater into the city's water supply. The analysis reveals that, by representing opposing interests with a simplistic narrative, the water industry's response has been superfluous. The latter assumes that impasse simply results from the public's lack of information, the logical response being an information dissemination campaign. We employ a hermeneutic approach to reveal a set of persistent issues that project proponents have hitherto failed to address. By respecting the inherent plurivocity and intertextuality of narrative, hermeneutics provides new inroads into controversial public issues. We close the discussion with implications for practice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)793-814
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Public Administration Research and Theory
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Public Administration
  • Marketing


Dive into the research topics of 'A hermeneutic approach to explaining and understanding public controversies'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this