Captured by technology? How material agency sustains interaction between regulators and industry actors

John Finch , Susi Geiger , Emma Reid

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

This paper examines how environmental regulation is made operational when it legislates for modifications rather than the banning of products or substances. The continued circulation of such products draws attention to the heterogeneous conditions of their use and allows industry actors to accumulate evidence of the products’ polluting effects over time. We find that this agentic quality of materials – including products and sites of application – is a vital and so far largely ignored dimension in the relationship between environmental regulation and innovation. This is captured in a process we term interactive stabilization, which describes how material agency becomes a focus for interactions between regulatory and industry actors. We develop our argument through an in-depth case study of the environmental regulation of production chemistry and identify three interactive processes: formulating regulatory principles; operationalizing these principles through technical documentation and calculation; and incremental innovation as used by chemists to address clients’ varied material problems in production. We trace stabilizing and destabilizing effects across these three processes and draw particular attention to the role of uncertainty in the operationalization of precaution as a regulatory principle. We argue that this uncertainty may lead to a form of regulatory capture that we frame as technological capture. This refers to how industry actors are able to test the limits of regulatory principles and calculations and on occasion contest these through their applied science capabilities.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to) 160–170
Number of pages10
JournalResearch Policy
Volume46
Issue number1
Early online date29 Aug 2016
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2017
Externally publishedYes

Fingerprint

Environmental regulations
Innovation
Industry
Stabilization
Interaction
Environmental regulation
Uncertainty

Keywords

  • Regulatory capture
  • Technological capture
  • Precautionary principle
  • Incremental innovation
  • Socio-economic interaction
  • Material agency

Cite this

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Captured by technology? How material agency sustains interaction between regulators and industry actors. / Finch , John; Geiger , Susi; Reid, Emma.

In: Research Policy , Vol. 46, No. 1, 02.2017, p. 160–170.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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