Reconciling policy dissonance: patterns of governmental response to policy noncompliance

Anat Gofen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)3-24
Number of pages22
JournalPolicy Sciences
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2014, Springer Science+Business Media New York.


  • Citizens–government relationship
  • Policy change
  • Policy noncompliance


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