This chapter introduces a sociology of regulation. It defines the field of regulation studies as a distinct area of scholarship that contributes to inquiry into two core concerns of the sociology of law. These are, firstly, ‘knowledge regulation’ which explores the constitutive role of law in creating social order through meaning-making. Secondly, regulation studies contribute to inquiry about how social change is achieved through law, also by examining regulation of and through technology. The chapter further argues that regulation studies do not just contribute to a sociology of law, but can also feed into other areas of sociological inquiry, including environmental sociology. Sociological analysis can shed light, for example, on co-ordination between different users of water in order to enable access to scarce water resources. Understanding the implications of such co-ordination efforts may feed into debates about the legal reform of administrative law permits for access to water resources. The chapter rounds off its introduction to a sociology of regulation by reflecting on the social forces that may shape the development of the field of regulation studies. Why do we know what we know about regulation? Asking this question is of continuing salience, also in the context of the search for regulatory strategies to address financial and public health crises.
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