Policy Sciences

, Volume 48, Issue 1, pp 3–24 | Cite as

Reconciling policy dissonance: patterns of governmental response to policy noncompliance

  • Anat GofenEmail author


Noncompliance is most often understood in the public policy literature as a problem of implementation and enforcement. Yet, this perhaps normative focus misses the role of noncompliance as a source of policy change. To demonstrate this unexplored role, this study conceptualizes noncompliance and subsequent governmental responses as an interactive, ongoing process, in which noncompliance may gain social acceptance and governmental reaction changes over time. Manifestations of noncompliance in health (immunization refusal, needle exchange programs), education (homeschooling), policing (community police), drug use (decriminalization of marijuana) and urban services (community gardening) suggest that governmental reaction is a dynamic, developing process, constituting a series of responses influenced by social acceptance of noncompliance and by the latter’s implications. Each response may take on one of four patterns of legitimization: embracement (legitimization), adaptation (reluctant legitimization), acceptance (implicit legitimization) and stricter enforcement (delegitimization). A more nuanced portrayal of the interaction between noncompliance and governmental reaction emphasizes a reciprocal relationship between policy makers and policy targets.


Policy noncompliance Policy change Citizens–government relationship 



The author wishes to thank Julien Etienne for his insightful comments.


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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Hebrew University of JerusalemJerusalemIsrael

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