How does law interact with regulatory reality, and why does legislative mandate, which presumably stands at the apex of a regulatory package, often deviate from its ideal-type as exclusive organizer of action? These questions are treated in this article through the concept of “fuzzy legality,” which serves as a common title for six different legal arrangements that stray from the ideal-type legislative mandate, while enabling “perfectly legal” industry behavior. Against the background of potential dangers involved in such practices, the article traces the politics of preference for fuzziness both by regulators and regulatees. It reassesses calls for responsive and reflexive law as a cure for the regulatory malaise: these may have been voiced due to existing overly rigid regulatory frameworks, rather than the intrinsic flaw of legal constructs. Blackwell Publishers Ltd 2001.