The Engineer's Dilemma: Sociological Perspectives on the Juridification of Regulation.

Fiona Haines, Adam Sutton

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


    Juridification refers to the tendency for organisations and individuals subject to regulation to be overwhelmed by detailed rules, standards and instructions. Many researchers have argued that such over-prescriptiveness can in fact undermine the likelihood that a business or individual will comply. Though proceeding from different theoretical perspectives, writers such as Braithwaite, Teubner and Patterson all argue that juridification can be minimised by improving regulatory strategies and techniques. Instead of being rule bound and relying on detailed prescriptions, authorities should become more flexible and outcome-oriented. This paper uses the case-study of a Chief Engineer in an Australian public hospital to contest the view that juridification can be reduced simply by improving regulatory techniques. Drawing on Habermas, it argues that juridification is the product of deep-seated crisis tendencies in late modern capitalist democracies. Fiscal and legitimacy problems are causing governments and regulatory authorities to pressure the engineer to try to satisfy contradictory demands. Simultaneously he must be a cost-conscious entrepreneurial risk-manager while not losing sight of his role as a risk-averse maintainer of professional standards. The plethora of rules and regulatory standards which surround the engineer reflect government desire to distance itself in the event that economic pressures cause him to incur risks that the public and media deem unacceptable. Ultimately, therefore, the engineer's juridification problems have a political dimension. To the extent that they help obscure this, theories that suggest juridification can be solved by improving regulatory techniques have an ideological function.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1-22
    JournalCrime, Law and Social Change
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 2003


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