Regulation is at the core of how modern states seek to govern the activities of individual citizens as well as corporate and governmental actors. Broadly defined it includes the use of legal and non-legal techniques to manage social and economic risks. While regulation is traditionally associated with prescriptive law, public agencies and criminal as well as administrative sanctions, the politics of the shrinking state and deregulation have meant that intrusive and blunt forms of legal regulation have given way at times to facilitative, reflexive and procedural law which seeks to balance public and private interests in regulatory regimes. Enduring policy debates address whether there is actually too much, too little or the wrong type of regulation in different policy areas.

This course examines what role different forms of law play in contemporary regulatory regimes. It thereby analyses how legal regulation constructs specific relationships between law and society and how legal regulation is involved in mediating conflicts between private and public power.

The first section of the course critically examines key conceptual approaches for understanding regulation. How can economic reasoning be employed in order to justify legal regulation? Does a focus on institutions help to understand the operation of regulatory regimes? What rationalities, and hence ‘governmentalities’ are involved in regulating through law? What role do emotions, such as trust in experts, play in regulatory interactions?

The second section of the course examines specific regulatory regimes ‘in action’ against the background of the conceptual frameworks explored in the first section. In 2019-20, only the second stream of this section is being offered. The focus of this stream is on technology, and the regulatory regimes devised and adapted to meet the challenges created by developing digital and bio technologies specifically. The aim in studying these regimes is to generate insights about the different roles and expectations of law and other regulatory mechanisms, such as the market and social norms, and their capacity to function effectively and appropriately in the radically changing socio-economic environment of the current technological age.

The course thus provides an opportunity for students to examine the pervasive phenomenon of regulation with reference to different disciplinary perspectives, in particular law, sociology, politics and economics and to gain detailed knowledge of substantive regulatory law in relation to cutting-edge technological developments. It should appeal to those interested in the theory and practice of regulation, jurisprudence, new technologies, and the substantive legal fields of intellectual property, privacy and data protection, liability, competition, supranationalism, and fundamental rights.

Relationship to “Law and Computer Science” option

Regulation differs from the BCL/MJur “Law and Computer Science” option in its focus on regulation and legal solutions to the challenges created by digital and bio technologies rather than, as for Law and Computer Science, the effects of digital technology on the nature of legal work and how lawyers and computer scientists can work together to devise technical solutions to deal with them. The options will not overlap and may therefore be taken together.


The course is taught through weekly two-hour seminars - which provide opportunities for active student participation – over Michaelmas and Hilary terms. Four tutorials spread over Michaelmas, Hilary and Trinity terms will also support students’ exam preparation. The 3 hour written examination at the end of the course involves essay questions in relation to the theoretical approaches to regulation discussed in MT as well as the ‘law and technology’ case studies examined during HT.  No prior knowledge of law in the fields discussed in Hilary Term is required to take this course.



Dr. Bettina Lange, Associate Professor in Law and Regulation