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This book explores the discourse of regulatory crisis in the UK and examines why, despite the increasing contestation of the principles underpinning the regulatory state, its institutions and practices continue to be firmly embedded within the governance of the British state. It considers its implications for our understanding of the contemporary nature of the British state, and to the study of regulation which is no longer confined to the domain of low politics, populated by technocrats, but is scrutinised by elected politicians, and the subject of the front pages rather than the financial pages. The author sets the British regulatory tradition in a wider context, both spatially, in terms of the challenges presented by Europeanisation, and temporally, critically analysing the process of crisis construction in the narratives of neoliberalism and participatory democracy in the contemporary era.



Political and Regulatory Traditions


Chapter 1. Introduction: The Politics of Tradition

Fitzpatrick provides a theoretical overview of the concept of tradition and explains why it is crucial to our understanding of change and continuity in politics. In doing so, he identifies three problems with the existing literature. First, he explains why a dominant conservative interpretation of tradition has led to the neglect of tradition in the social sciences generally. Second, he sets out why the underlying pluralist perspective of the power relations involved in regulation are unsatisfactory. Finally, he advocates a greater role for ideas, culture and traditions in the analysis of regulation. In particular, he argues that a set of ideas about the role of the state—the British political tradition—has played a decisive role in shaping the nature of regulation in the UK.
Daniel Fitzpatrick

Chapter 2. The British Political Tradition

This chapter explores the key contention of the book: a dominant political tradition prevails in the UK, based on a centralised and hierarchical conception of power. In unpacking the literature on the British political tradition, this chapter provides a theoretical framework in which the competing influence of ideas, traditions and institutions on UK regulation can be recognised and understood. Fitzpatrick summarises the key contributions to the literature on the British political tradition, focusing in particular on the ‘classical wave’ of Birch, Beer and Greenleaf, followed by the more recent ‘critical’ accounts of Marsh, Tant and Evans.
Daniel Fitzpatrick

Chapter 3. UK Regulation: The Self-Regulatory Ideal

Fitzpatrick explores the relationship between a dominant political tradition and a distinctive British regulatory model. He argues that UK regulation is characterised by a recurring pattern of self-governance and limited representation, which is premised on an implicit conservative notion of responsibility. The origins of this self-regulatory ideal are explored in the context of industrialisation and the threats to established political elites in the nineteenth century. Fitzpatrick criticises the orthodox view of UK regulation for naturalising the emergence and reproduction of the dominant British model of regulation. Instead, he seeks to problematise its endurance by highlighting the discursive role of ideas and values at the core of the British regulatory tradition.
Daniel Fitzpatrick

Pressures for Change


Chapter 4. The Neoliberal Tradition: Privatisation and Re-regulation

Fitzpatrick provides a conceptual account of the privatisation and re-regulation of public utilities in the 1980s. He places the emergence of this ‘neoliberal tradition’ in the context of two crises: the perceived crisis of the Keynesian Welfare State in the late 1970s, of which the failing nationalised industries were seem to be emblematic; and a deeper, more subtle and less articulated crisis of the traditional mode of regulating private enterprise, that is British regulatory tradition. Using data gathered from elite interviews and primary documents, he interrogates the process of contestation that the British regulatory tradition has undergone post-privatisation. In particular, he critically analyses the attempt to subject the privatised utilities to an econometric, non-discretionary regulation regime that challenged the traditional capacity of the state to intervene and the underlying notion that the ‘government knows best’.
Daniel Fitzpatrick

Chapter 5. The European Tradition: A Challenge to the Regulatory Orthodoxy?

Fitzpatrick critically examines the evolution of UK environmental regulation, with specific reference to the control of water pollution, in the context of the British regulatory tradition. In particular, he considers the challenge of an alternative European tradition, drawing on different legal, political and administrative norms, following the UK’s accession to the European Economic Community in 1973. He also argues that the emergence of new complex ‘wicked’ problems, such as diffuse urban pollution, has resulted in a dynamic process that has reanimated some of the traditional tenets of the British regulatory tradition while further confounding others.
Daniel Fitzpatrick

Chapter 6. The Participatory Tradition: Football and the Crisis of Self-Regulation

In a critique of the existing debate on football governance, Fitzpatrick argues that the contemporary problems of English football represent a deeper crisis of legitimacy for the sport’s governing bodies. Fitzpatrick documents how periodic crises in football—most notably Hillsborough in 1989—have challenged the self-regulatory basis of the game’s governance. This legitimation crisis in football is related to a broader decline of public confidence in the self-governing codes of the British regulatory tradition. Football, through the establishment of supporter groups, is offered as a useful case study of an emergent participatory tradition to the regulation of sport.
Daniel Fitzpatrick

Chapter 7. Post-2008: An Era of Regulatory Crisis?

Fitzpatrick considers the two central themes of tradition and crisis in relation to the contemporary, post-financial crisis, era. He explores why the financial crisis in 2008 did not result in significant change in the regulation and political economy of the UK, despite the unprecedented nature of crash and subsequent state intervention. Fitzpatrick contends that part of the explanation is the moral and political ambivalence of UK regulation; or rather that the values and principles underpinning it are naturalised and considered as a common sense rather than prescriptive and value-laden. The chapter concludes with an analysis of the future trajectory of the regulatory agenda and a critical flaw at the heart of the risk-based, better regulation agenda, which suggest that we may be at the start rather than the end of an era of regulatory crisis.
Daniel Fitzpatrick


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