Beyond the Regulation Approach

Beyond the Regulation Approach

Putting Capitalist Economies in their Place

Bob Jessop and Ngai-Ling Sum

This book presents a detailed and critical account of the regulation approach in institutional and evolutionary economics. Offering both a theoretical commentary and a range of empirical examples, it identifies the successes and failures of the regulation approach as an explanatory theory, and proposes new guidelines for its further development.

Chapter 1: Early Regulation Approaches in Retrospect and Prospect

Bob Jessop and Ngai-Ling Sum

Subjects: economics and finance, institutional economics, political economy, politics and public policy, political economy, social policy and sociology, sociology and sociological theory


This chapter reviews the regulation approach (or RA) and its main schools as they developed in their first 15 or so years. We begin with its general theoretical background, then compare seven approaches and their fields of application, and conclude with some methodological and epistemological criticisms. We focus on methodological and conceptual issues rather than empirical analyses because this is the best basis for comparing schools and their generations. In returning to the origins and early development of the regulation approach, we aim to revive some of its foundational concerns. For, as key RA concepts became common academic currency and terms like ‘Fordism’ and ‘post-Fordism’ were popularized, the pioneer theorists’ original methodological concerns were often forgotten. Scientific progress in a research programme often requires moving beyond its pioneers so that its impetus and relevance are maintained (Jessop 1990a: 153; Boyer and Saillard 2002c: 45). Such movement has certainly occurred in the RA. But early contributions can also become classic texts. As classic texts, these may not provide answers that would be considered adequate today but they still define important questions and point to possible solutions. This is the case for some early regulationist studies, which, although they now rarely receive it, do merit continuing critical engagement (Chapters 7 and 10; on the meaning of a classic text, Baehr and O’Brien 1994: 127–8). Neglect of the full range of concerns in pioneer texts has also led to two other problems. First, the RA has often been falsely equated...

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