Bringing the symbolic back in the study of public policy: Decoding the impact of symbols @ Sala Triaria, Villa Schifanoia
Jun 19 @ 12:30 pm – 2:00 pm
Join Florence Faucher as she delves into the symbolic dimensions of public policy, examining how symbols are employed by public authorities to communicate and resonate with communities.
Symbols are everywhere in politics and, although they have not been much analysed, they are also abundantly used in public policy. What are they and what are they for? What does the symbolic enable policy makers to say, to imply or to do that makes it an important and necessary part of public action? The main argument is that public authorities use the symbolic because it allows them to communicate cognitive and emotional content to their audience and to convey implicit messages that are difficult to articulate explicitly. It is argued that public authorities make informed choices, that they draw the symbols they use from repertoires they share with the community they are addressing and that their choices are influenced by several factors. During this seminar the demonstration is supported by two case studies: the French governmental reactions to terrorist attacks in 2015 and 2016, and the governmental responses to the Covid-19 sanitary crisis in the first wave of the pandemic in Europe. Thanks to a comparative approach – diachronic in the case of the terrorist attacks and spatial for the sanitary crisis – five factors have been identified: the nature of the focusing event; the political and electoral context; the leaders’ persona (personality, background, leadership style); the timing (duration, repetition, wear); and the existence of distinct national repertoires of symbolic actions, based on history, political system, and national cultures.

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