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Regulation school

  A group of French political-economic theories developed to explain the structure of capitalist economies and how these change over time. Born out of an explicit rejection of market equilibrium as the organizing force within capitalism, the Regulation approach instead posits societal reproduction as the central imperative underlying capitalist dynamics. Such reproduction is said to be achieved through the \'mode of regulation\' — a set of state and private institutional forms, social practices, habits, and norms (such as those governing wage determination), which induce private individuals to act in the interests of achieving overall economic stability. Regulation theorists place particular importance on the balancing of national production and consumption (via the mode of regulation) in order to ensure the reproduction of capitalism. Distinctive historical periods of long-run expansion or relative stability (see regime of accumulation) are seen to culminate in crisis (stagnation, instability) when such balance is no longer achieved by the existing mode of regulation. A new period of stability will arise only if successful ways of reorganizing production and/or consumption, or effective new institutions and social practices, are found. Because they are seen as being produced through active human struggle, many different modes of regulation can, in theory, support a given regime of accumulation. Modes of regulation will thus vary over time within the same national economy, and will also vary from country to country at any point in time.

Although Regulation theorists have tended to emphasize the nation-state as the key scale of governance at which the mode of regulation is shaped, geographers have argued that there is a strong link between regulation processes and the spatial-economic and social variation within each nation-state. Early on, Scott (1988) argued that particular regimes, and the mode of regulation historically associated with them, have each favoured a particular set of industries and production locations. Similarly, Storper and Walker (1989) asserted that successive eras of capitalist competition have each produced their own distinctive geography of \'winner\' and \'loser\' regions within countries such as the United States, creating an \'inconstant geography of capitalism\'. More recently, geographers have replaced this passive view of space with a more active conception in which the very production of regimes and modes of regulation is seen as being fundamentally grounded in the histories and socio-political dynamics of particular places (Tickell and Peck, 1992). As Goodwin and Painter (1997, p. 21) argue, \'the geography of regulation is not an optional extra or final complicating factor. On the contrary, the process of regulation is constituted geographically. Its unevenness is inherent.\' Empirical demonstrations of this argument can be found in DiGiovanna\'s (1996) analysis of the local historical processes leading to the creation of particular elements of the mode of regulation. (See also flexible accumulation; Fordism; post-Fordism.) (MSG)

References DiGiovanna, S. 1996: Industrial districts from a Regulation perspective. Regional Studies 30: 373-86. Goodwin, M. and Painter, J. 1997: Concrete research, urban regimes, and regulation theory. In M. Lauria, ed., Reconstructing urban regime theory. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 13-29. Scott, A.J. 1988: New industrial spaces. London: Pion. Storper, M. and Walker, R.A. 1989: The capitalist imperative. Oxford: Blackwell. Tickell, A. and Peck, J. 1992: Accumulation, regulation and the geographies of post-Fordism: missing links in regulationist research. Progress in Human Geography 16: 190-218.

Suggested Reading Boyer, R. 1990: The Regulation school: a critical introduction. New York: Columbia University Press.



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