Compliance is a complex, flexible, and dynamic concept the definition, assessment, and achievement of which is the product of interaction, the outcome of a series of interpretative judgements. This process of compliance is subject to broad social and institutional constraints. These are embodied in the political, legal, organizational, and cultural spheres of the social context within which these interactions occur.
In attempting to make sense of regulatory control it is important to explore the shared understandings of those involved in regulation as well as of those parts of society which are most obviously of relevance to regulatory issues, such as the law, regulatory traditions, and regulatory work. It is important to be aware of conflicting interpretations of the social world and the political resolution of conflict; as well as of social change. Underpinning all of these are a series of regulatory tensions which inform not just the broader parameters of compliance but also its everyday resolution in the workplace. Moreover, they are tensions which help us to explain how and why regulatory officials come to select particular enforcement styles, especially those which are accommodative and compliance-based. The regulatory community is at the core of the compliance process and the relationship between regulators and the regulated emerges as vital to our understanding of regulatory control.
Kagan ( 1994, pp. 390 ff.) identified four sets of explanatory factors for variations in regulatory enforcement styles, namely regulatory legal design; the agency's social and economic task environment; its political environment; and its internal leadership. This research lends broad support to these, with support for the fourth being the weakest. This is partly because the focus of this research was not on the work of senior officials1 and partly because senior British regulatory officials are not subject to the overtly political appointments system which characterizes the United States. The Director General of HSE at the time of this research was a career civil-servant while the Chief Inspectors were all, with one exception, career regulatory officials. The preoccupations of____________________