The Politics of Regulation: From New Institutionalism to New Governance

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The study of the politics of regulation has followed two distinct paths in recent years. “New institutionalism” research has focused primarily on the policy-making process, particularly the interplay between regulators (who implement policy) and their political principals (who attempt to control regulators' activity). In contrast, “new governance” scholarship has focused on strategies other than traditional “command-and-control” regulation that can encourage compliance with socially valued norms of behavior. Although these two lines of research approach highly distinct facets of regulation and have developed largely independently of each other, they exhibit a generally unacknowledged and extensive overlap in their theoretical structure and associated results. In this article, we compare these two approaches to regulatory politics. For each, we discuss how the interactions of key actors are conceptualized, consider the types of regulatory mechanisms used to manage behavior, and examine the breadth of outcomes that flow from these controls. We suggest that greater acknowledgment of the commonalities in the two approaches can advance each approach, even if they continue to be pursued separately, and can also help generate important synthetic avenues for further research.


policy making, political control, implementation, enforcement, bureaucracy

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Annual Review of Political Science