The Odyssey of the Regulatory State: From a "Thin" Monomorphic Concept to a "Thick" and Polymorphic Concept

David Levi-Faur*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

83 Scopus citations


This article assesses the "odyssey" of the regulatory state from a mere American thin and monomorphic concept to a global, thick and polymorphic concept that captures some of the more important features of the capitalist-democratic state. The burgeoning literature on the regulatory state presents a confusing number of images and characterizations that are increasingly conflicting, and it too often presents a monomorphic conception of the regulatory state. The article suggests that we need to define the regulatory state rather than merely characterizing it. And we need to do so in a manner that will allow us to move beyond the specific institutional features of a certain era, nation, region, or sector. Rather than contrasting regulation with distribution and redistribution, and contrasting the regulatory state with other forms of state, I treat the regulatory state as one morph of the polymorphic capitalist state, a morph that may help constitute other morphs (such as the welfare state and the developmental state) instead of replacing them. This in turn may help remove the artificial walls between the regulatory scholarly community and other social scientists, and promote more fruitful social science.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)29-50
Number of pages22
JournalLaw and Policy
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Apr 2013


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