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Reconsidering regulation and governance theory: a learning approach

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Theories and frameworks for regulation of particular industries or types of behavior have grown in richness in recent years. This article identifies three perspectives within contemporary regulatory theory: “normative,”“descriptive,” and “poststructuralist” perspectives. We ask whether contemporary models of regulatory governance arrangements adequately capture and explain the characteristics and operation of existing regulatory spaces. We outline three key models linked to these perspectives (responsive regulation, smart regulation, and nodal governance) and discuss their relevance with specific reference to one complex case study, the gambling industry in a federal polity, Australia, where the regulatory arrangements are quite diverse. We argue that regulatory theory needs to remain flexible if it is to inform an understanding of concrete regulatory challenges, thereby assisting analysts and practitioners to assess current and potential approaches for improved regulatory governance arrangements. Accordingly, we build a case for considering a learning perspective on regulation and governance theory linked to pragmatism.

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