Problem complexity and narratives in Moscow's waste controversy
Public problems are not complex per se but are defined as such. This article explores how problem definition in terms of complexity is strategically used in narratives to expand or contain a policy conflict. We draw on the Narrative Policy Framework (NPF) to examine how actors use narratives to define problems and link these problems to solutions and characters. Empirically, we examine narratives used in the Moscow waste management debate by drawing on content analysis of online texts and interviews. The results show that government actors seek to contain conflict by assigning less complexity to the waste problem than nongovernmental actors, who expand conflict by defining the waste problem as politically complex. Narratives with high problem complexity include many victims and villains and propose multifaceted and institutional solutions, while narratives with low problem complexity focus on technocratic solutions. Implications for the Russian waste controversy and the NPF are discussed.