Compliance: Regulation and Environment

By Bridget M. Hutter | Go to book overview
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Preface

Compliance is a much referred-to concept but it is not one which has been subject to any sustained academic scrutiny. In many respects it is a concept the meaning of which is taken for granted. Compliance with laws, rules, and regulations is assumed to be a straightforward and uncomplicated matter which simply denotes whether or not individuals and organizations have fulfilled the demands of the law. In practice, things are not so simple.

This study considers the concept of compliance in relation to the regulation of economic activities by the use of the criminal law. In particular, it considers the regulation of occupational health and safety and the environment in England and Wales in the 1980s. Sociological analysis treats regulatory compliance both as a concept and as a process of interpretative understanding. Moreover, it focuses on the social environments within which regulation occurs. The meaning of compliance is thrashed out in a web of social, political, and economic contradictions. It is important to understand the broader structural factors which influence regulation and its definition at the everyday level.

My aim has been to focus on one part of the regulatory process, namely the enforcement of regulation by field-level inspectors from three different inspectorates, the Factory Inspectorate, the Industrial Air Pollution Inspectorate, and the Railway Inspectorate. This book presents a snapshot of regulatory compliance and its interpretation and construction at a particular moment in time and within a specific legal jurisdiction. There have been important changes to the organizations studied and the most significant of these are discussed in Chapter 2. But they do not change the basic argument and purpose of this book, to analyse and understand compliance, partly through the collection of indepth, rich empirical data. These data, in combination with and by comparison to research undertaken elsewhere and in different jurisdictions, illuminate and further our understanding. Common patterns and themes do emerge.

These patterns and themes 'matter' in a pragmatic sense. Regulation touches upon areas of vital importance to our lives, in the case of this research as employees, as rail travellers, and as ordinary members of the public who could fall victim to pollution or poor standards of occupational health and safety. It is therefore in our interest to know

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