Notes towards the Social Logic of Regulation

Willem Witteveen (Tilburg University)

In the context of the regulatory problems of the Dutch welfare state, the idea of legally conditioned self-regulation seemed an attractive alternative for other strategies of regulation. It was adopted as official government policy in the early 1990s.Yet, it has not been applied consistently and seems not to have affected the style of government regulation in its appointed domains. This article seeks an explanation for this development in the mismatch between legislative strategy, undertaken at the national level, and normative expectations in society generally about what regulation is to be and to achieve. Following Schön and Rein, two cultural models or frames are posited: the production model of legislation versus the situational model of legislation. Self-regulation puts both models under strain. In order to work, the strategy of legally conditioned self-regulation requires a different social logic circumventing the paradoxical nature of the injunction to self-regulate. This autonomy paradox is a variant of the spontaneity paradox described by Watzlawick et al. (1967). The command to 'be autonomous' requires an institutional structure in which metacommunication is possible. It is argued that a constructive social logic for a strategy of legally conditioned self-regulation should make use of Selznick's theory of responsive law.

Cite as: Willem Witteveen, A Self-Regulation Paradox: Notes towards the Social Logic of Regulation, vol 9.1 ELECTRONIC JOURNAL OF COMPARATIVE LAW (January 2005), <http://www.ejcl.org/91/art91-2.html>.

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1. The emergence of legally conditioned self-regulation
2. Legislative strategy and its discontents
3. Two cultural frames
4. 'Be autonomous!'
5. The social logic of responsive regulation
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