Chapter 23: The Pragmatic Politics of Regulatory Enforcement
Salo Coslovsky, Roberto Pires, and Susan S. Silbey This chapter describes regulatory enforcement as an intrinsically political endeavor. We argue that regulatory enforcement, as enacted daily by front-line enforcers around the world, consists of the production of local agreements and arrangements that realign interests, reshape conflicts, and redistribute the risks, costs, and benefits of doing business and complying with the law. We argue that, through their transactions, both the regulators and the regulated reshape both their interests and the environment in which they operate, reconstructing their perceptions of and preferences for compliance. We call this phenomenon the “sub-politics of regulatory enforcement,” and claim that it provides a springboard for a pragmatic approach to better regulation. We begin by tracing the trajectory of the field of regulatory enforcement to identify some of its current boundaries. Next, we explore recent research on inspectors and street-level regulatory agents, introducing the notion of “sub-politics of regulatory compliance.” This construct evokes a conception of politics that differs from the idea that predominates in the regulatory enforcement literature. Contrary to those who see enforcement styles and strategies as independent variables determining compliance, we posit that enforcement agencies and regulated entities engage in an indeterminate exploration of their institutional surroundings to create legal, technological, and managerial artifacts and agreements to address practical problems of doing business and complying with law. These agents move beyond imposing fines, issuing warnings, or educating their subjects. Rather, they engage in what we describe as a terrain of sub-politics by building agreements...
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