How networks among frontline offices influence regulatory enforcement: Diffusion and justification of interpretation of risk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Street-level interpretation and enforcement are critical to defining the meaning of law. To understand street-level regulatory decisions, prior studies have highlighted internal office conditions, neglecting the influence that peer offices can have. This study examines the role of horizontal inter-office interaction among frontline offices and illustrates how and under what conditions it shapes the meaning of law. Drawing on qualitative and quantitative data on Japan's Soil Contamination Countermeasures Act, this study reveals that inter-office interaction occurs within fixed groups and comes to shape shared interpretations of law that regulators believe are legally valid. This implies that under legal ambiguity, inter-office interactions develop institutionalized notions of appropriateness and reinforce the perception of legal consistency, which bolster the legitimacy of enforcement. Although peer office networks encourage convergence on the interpretation of law, because of their clustered structure, legal meanings develop differently across various groups.

Original languageEnglish
JournalRegulation and Governance
DOIs
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2020

Keywords

  • environmental regulation
  • interpretation of law
  • networks among frontline offices
  • regulatory enforcement
  • street-level bureaucracy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Public Administration
  • Law

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