Reappraising regulation: the politics of “regulatory retreat” in the United Kingdom

Tombs, Steve and Whyte, David (2013). Reappraising regulation: the politics of “regulatory retreat” in the United Kingdom. In: Will, Susan; Handelman, Stephen and Brotherton, David C. eds. How They Got Away with It: White Collar Criminals and the Financial Meltdown. New York and Chichester: Columbia University Press, pp. 205–222.



As the contributions to this volume ably demonstrate, the current economic crisis is a result of a systemic uncontrollability in the international economy. Yet our understanding of how we have reached the present crisis has generally been framed within a macroeconomics that has consciously and systematically distorted what markets are, how markets work, and the role of regulation therein. Of particular interest is the framing of the idea of regulation in ways that separate states from markets, indeed subsuming the former into the latter within some crude zero-sum conception of power.

In this essay, we offer a critique of the narrow view that the system is merely an inevitable consequence of “underregulation” and that what is needed to “mend” the system is just “better” or more “responsive” regulation. Further, we argue that this framing also raises questions about the utility of seeking to understand the present crisis through the lens of crime.

This chapter is written, at least in terms of its empirical reference points, from a British perspective. We do not claim that it can be read to fit any situation. However, since our focus is on the nature and idea of regulation in general—what regulation is, and can be, and how the idea is represented, distorted, limited, and reframed hegemonically—we hope that the theoretical argument developed here has a more general applicability.

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