Essay Notes: "Regulation and Time: Temporal patterns in regulatory development" by Joshua Newman and Michael Howlett

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Newman, J. and Howlett, M. (2014). Regulation and time: temporal patterns in regulatory development. International Review of Administrative Sciences, 80(3), 493–511.

In this article, Newman and Howlett develop a model of regulatory regime evolution, and then test the model against six case studies representing various situations. I have been working on my own model of policy regime evolution, but need to either find the right space so that my ideas are not lost in interdisciplinary translation, or redevelop the concept so that I can articulate my ideas more precisely.

I find this article fascinating, as it looks at issues of time and space in the context of the comparative method, but where the temporal dimension is of special importance in understanding regulatory regimes. This article was sent to me after my recent presentation at the PPN Conference in Adelaide.

I’ve read the article in detail and it has given me new hope for a model I have been working on for some time based on a comparison of communications technology policies in Canada and Australia. I appreciated the focus on the temporal element observed in regulatory regime evolution. My model has a temporal element based on a most-similar comparison but I am losing much in translation between the political science and policy studies, and telecommunications and technology policy disciplines, and need to articulate my ideas more clearly – or less clearly, I am still not sure.

Previously, I called my model a model of co-evolution of institutions and communications technologies, using Thomas Hughes’ idea of technological momentum. Originally, I was looking at the model being a way to “operationalise” historical institutionalism, but I need to do some more ground work.

The article mentions exogenous “cris[es] in affecting policy change”, and this fits the historical institutionalist concept of critical junctures. But I have found that regulatory regimes (I have been referring to policy regimes but also trying to capture regulatory regime design as a subset of policy) tend to be path dependent. So while they may evolve and mature, in telecommunications at least, regimes tend to be self-reinforcing and mature along the trajectory set at the beginning (for telecommunications this is the telegraph).

If one views a new communications technology as a “crisis” or critical juncture (as these tend to be exogenous), then I can see a deep connection between the model tested by case studies in this article and the model derived from the case studies in mine. I have used words like “evolution” previously but I seem to have a missing piece of the puzzle when it comes to getting traction!

This is the first article that comes close to the space I am working in, and the paper gives me a sound example of how I can develop the sugar, automotive manufacturing, and taxi industry case studies I presented in Adelaide. This is one of the few articles I have read that is "speaking" my language.