The Government of Risk: Understanding Risk Regulation Regimes

The Government of Risk: Understanding Risk Regulation Regimes

The Government of Risk: Understanding Risk Regulation Regimes

The Government of Risk: Understanding Risk Regulation Regimes


Why does regulation vary so dramatically from one area to another? Why are some risks regulated aggressively and others responded to only modestly? Is there any logic to the techniques we use in risk regulation? These key questions are explored in The Government of Risk. This book looks at anumber of risk regulation regimes, considers the respects in which they differ, and examines how these differences can be justified. Analyzing regulation in terms of 'regimes' allows us to see the rich, multi-dimensional nature of risk regulation. It exposes the thinness of society-wide analyses of risk controls and it offers a perspective that single case studies cannot reach. Regimes analysis breaks down the components of riskregulation systems and shows how they interact. It also shows how different parts of the same regime may be shaped by different factors and have to be explained and understood in quite different ways. The Government of Risk shows how such an approach is of high policy relevance as well as ofconsiderable theoretical importance.


This book is the product of a journey of exploration into risk regulation—the result of several years spent examining and comparing how risk was regulated across different policy domains. Some of the travel was literal: to talk to government officials and other players in different worlds of risk regulation, and some of it took us far afield. But much of the journeying was metaphorical or virtual, in a search to understand the various tribes, customs, and problems that make up the different worlds of risk regulation.

The three of us embarked on this odyssey from different points and with rather different intellectual baggage—with backgrounds variously in public administration, social studies of science, and public law—but our destination was the same and so was our reason for undertaking the journey. We wanted to see risk regulation at work in a number of different domains, and to come back not just with a set of travellers' tales but also with a systematic way of comparing the regimes we had seen.

In the course of our journey, we published parts of the analysis that this book embodies. An early attempt to sketch out the 'regime' approach to regulatory analysis was published in Risk Management (Hood et al. 1999a), and in the same year our first analysis of what we then called the 'minimal feasible response' approach to risk regulation was published in Health, Risk and Society (Hood et al. 1999b). The germ of the idea that became Chapter 9 of this book was published in the proceedings of the 1998 Society of Risk Analysis Paris Conference, and a more developed version was later accepted by Administration and Society. We began to collect our thoughts about the appraisal of regulatory regimes in an article on the UK's notorious Dangerous Dogs Act of 1991 published in Public Law in 2000. As our journey went on, our approach developed and changed, and this book aims to bring the whole approach together.

Travellers bound on this sort of journey need a lot of help. For financial assistance we are indebted to the Economic and Social Research Council, which helped to fund our inquiries for more than two years as part of its Risk and Human Behaviour Phase II Programme; to the LSE's research fund; and to its Centre for Analysis of Risk and Regulation. We are grateful for research assistance provided by Francesca Davoli, Matthew Grist, Clare Hall, Nigel Taylor, Ligia Teixeira, and Joachim Wehner.

For assistance with information and help in pointing us in the right direction on our journey we are grateful to several hundred players in the regu-latory world, who gave generously of their time and expertise in helping us

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