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Call for papers: Special Issue in Regulation & Governance (until December 1st, 2016)


Call for papers for a special issue proposal in Regulation & Governance

Deadline: December 1st, 2016

Guest editors

Sébastien Mena, Cass Business School, City, University of London

Luc Brès, Laval University

Marie-Laure Djelic, Science Po Paris


Following recent developments in research on regulatory intermediaries, and in particular a forthcoming special issue in The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science by Abbott, Levi-Faur and Snidal (2017), we propose a special issue extending this line of research. In particular, we invite contributions exploring the role of intermediaries in transnational multi-stakeholder regulation (e.g. Mena & Palazzo, 2012) that devise rules for ‘responsible' business conduct. We are interested in the multiplicity of roles, formal and especially informal, that intermediaries play in transnational multi-stakeholder regulation for business conduct.

Special issue proposal

The shift to 'regulatory capitalism' (Levi-Faur, 2005) marked the start of profound changes for regulatory dynamics worldwide (Abbott & Snidal, 2009; Djelic & Sahlin-Andersson, 2006). Once developed mostly by states in a 'command and control' fashion, regulations for business conduct are now largely initiated and negotiated through multi-actor platforms, where states may or may not be involved; this reflects the move towards transnational multi-stakeholder regulation (Bartley, 2007). In these kinds of regulatory initiatives, private, public and not-for-profit actors co-construct rules and monitoring mechanisms that apply then, in part, to themselves (Miller & Rose, 1993; Scherer & Palazzo, 2011).

In contrast to more traditional forms of state-centered government and regulatory initiatives where rule-makers (governmental actors) directly devise laws and regulations that rule-takers must adopt, one striking feature of transnational multi-stakeholder regulation has been the intermediary roles of a third category of actors in the regulatory process – rule-intermediaries as they have come to be called (Abbott, Levi-Faur, & Snidal, 2015). Regulatory intermediaries can be broadly defined as "as any actor who acts in conjunction with a regulator to affect the behaviour of a target. The intermediary is a go-between, whose presence necessarily makes regulation (or some aspects of regulation) indirect, as the intermediary stands between the regulator and its target" (Abbott et al., 2015: 5).

As transnational multi-stakeholder regulation cannot rely on the "monopoly of force or violence" associated with nation-states – and hence lacks strong mechanisms of enforcement and monitoring – it has to devise new mechanisms and processes. One such method is to rely on regulatory intermediaries who are tasked to monitor, if not ensure, the adoption of and compliance with these rules. Intermediaries, usually non-governmental actors, are diverse and play different roles in this enforcement and monitoring process (Grabosky, 2013). Typically, NGOs, and sometimes consulting firms or expert groups, perform monitoring duties in association with multi-stakeholder regulatory platforms to verify that rules are indeed applied adequately (Gereffi, Garcia-Johnson, & Sasser, 2001). It is important to underscore that these monitoring actors are also often directly involved in the initiative or platform they 'work' for (i.e. they are likely to also have a say in decision- and rule-making).

While some research has already yielded insights into the formal role played by regulatory intermediaries in the implementation, monitoring and enforcement of rules (Abbott et al., 2017), there is still much to explore. Existing research has tended to focus on the role of intermediaries once regulation is in place, but we know much less about the role of intermediaries in the process leading to the emergence, construction, and legitimization of multi-stakeholder regulation for business conduct. In particular, we do not have a thorough understanding of the more informal, unexpected, or even insidious roles that regulatory intermediaries may play when it comes to impeding or fostering the development of private regulation on different issues. For example, Brès & Gond (2014) have shown how consultants in the corporate social responsibility market, as they strive to develop their business, are simultaneously fostering and monitoring the adoption and interpretation of private rules through various normative tools, such as rankings or environmental impact assessments. Others have shown how activist groups can leverage multi-stakeholder initiatives to coerce rule-takers into adopting more stringent rules (King, 2014; Mena & Waeger, 2014). Think tanks, understood as regulatory intermediaries, can foster an ideological agenda and may sometimes prevent the creation of formal regulation by pushing the idea that self-regulation, or even no regulation, is not only sufficient but also the right solution (Djelic, 2015; King & Lenox, 2000).

In this special issue, we invite investigations of the multiplicity of roles of regulatory intermediaries, particularly on the more informal, behind-the-scenes, unexpected, unintended or insidious work that they perform and how this affects the regulatory process of transnational private regulation. Such work is currently underexplored and not well understood. While Abbott et al.'s (2015) model of intermediary participation in regulation provides a compelling starting point, we still lack a comprehensive understanding of the informal work of regulatory intermediaries and how this work affects public and private regulations. We therefore call for contributions on the multiplicity of roles of regulatory intermediaries, including, but not limited to, the following questions:

  • What are the drivers that instigate collective action towards informal regulatory work, e.g. by pressure groups or activists

  • Can we develop a typology of regulatory intermediaries that reflects the different types of formal and informal work they perform?

  • How do the design and regulatory processes unique to each multi-stakeholder regulatory initiative affect the work of regulatory intermediaries not involved in the initiative?

  • What types of hidden agendas do some regulatory intermediaries pursue and how does this affect the regulatory process?

  • How does the interplay between regulatory intermediaries’ formal and informal roles influence regulations?

  • Is there a need for a more democratic control over the work of regulatory intermediaries (particularly of the informal kind) and how could/should such control be designed?

  • How do intermediaries informally influence the scope and the reach of regulation?

  • How does the formal and informal work of regulatory intermediaries institutionalize or impede the institutionalization of private regulation in different sectors?

  • When does the (intentional or unintentional) work of intermediaries lead to public rather than private regulation? For example, sustainability reporting guidelines from the GRI are now legal requirements for government-owned firms in Denmark and Sweden (see Glasbergen, 2011). When is this expected, and when is it not?

  • How and when do regulatory intermediaries collaborate and compete?

Call for papers and timeline

We invite short papers for consideration in this special issue by December 1st, 2016. Short papers should comprise 3,000 words excluding the abstract (150 words), references, figures and tables. Please send your short paper to:

The guest editors will perform a first review of the short papers and select the most promising to include in the special issue. Authors whose short papers are selected will have to submit a full paper by June 6th, 2017. Please follow Regulation & Governance formatting guidelines. Please also note that the regular review process of Regulation & Governance will proceed. Therefore, papers can still be rejected through the usual review process.

Please contact the guest editors if you have any questions:, or


Abbott, K., & Snidal, D. 2009. The governance triangle: Regulatory standards institutions and the shadow of the state. In W. Mattli, & N. Woods (Eds.), The politics of global regulation: 44-88. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Abbott, K. W., Levi-Faur, D., & Snidal, D. 2015. Intermediaries in Regulatory Governance, SASE 27th Annual Conference. The London School of Economics and Political Science, London, UK.

Abbott, K. W., Levi-Faur, D., & Snidal, D. 2017. Regulatory Intermediaries in the Age of Governance [Special issue]. The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, forthcoming.

Bartley, T. 2007. Institutional Emergence in an Era of Globalization: The Rise of Transnational Private Regulation of Labor and Environmental Conditions. American Journal of Sociology, 113: 297-351.

Brès, L., & Gond, J.-P. 2014. The visible hand of consultants in the construction of the markets for virtue: Translating issues, negotiating boundaries and enacting responsive regulations. Human Relations, 67(11): 1347-1382.

Djelic, M.-L. 2015. Spreading Ideas to Change the World: Inventing and Institutionalizing the Neoliberal Think Tank. Working paper.

Djelic, M.-L., & Sahlin-Andersson, K. 2006. Introduction: A world of governance: The rise of transnational regulation. In M.-L. Djelic, & K. Sahlin-Andersson (Eds.), Transnational Governance: Institutional Dynamics of Regulation: 1-30. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Gereffi, G., Garcia-Johnson, R., & Sasser, E. 2001. The NGO-industrial complex. Foreign Policy, 125: 56-65.

Glasbergen, P. 2011. Mechanisms of private meta-governance: An analysis of global private governance for sustainable development. International Journal of Strategic Business Alliances, 2: 189-206.

Grabosky, P. 2013. Beyond Responsive Regulation: The expanding role of non‐state actors in the regulatory process. Regulation & Governance, 7(1): 114-123.

King, A. A., & Lenox, M. J. 2000. Industry self-regulation without sanctions: The chemical industry's Responsible Care program. Academy of Management Journal, 43: 698-716.

King, B. 2014. Reputational Dynamics of Private Regulation. Socio-Economic Review, 12(1): 200-206.

Levi-Faur, D. 2005. The global diffusion of regulatory capitalism. The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 598(1): 12-32.

Mena, S., & Palazzo, G. 2012. Input and Output Legitimacy of Multi-Stakeholder Initiatives. Business Ethics Quarterly, 22(3): 529-559.

Mena, S., & Waeger, D. 2014. Activism for corporate responsibility: Conceptualizing private regulation opportunity structures. Journal of Management Studies, 51(7): 1091-1117.

Miller, P., & Rose, N. 1993. Governing economic life. In M. Gane, & T. Johnson (Eds.), Foucault's new domains. London: Routledge.

Scherer, A. G., & Palazzo, G. 2011. The New Political Role of Business in a Globalized World: A Review of A New Perspective on CSR and its Implications for the Firm, Governance, and Democracy. Journal of Management Studies, 48: 899-931.

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