The Limits of Regulation
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The Limits of Regulation

A Critical Analysis of Capitalist Development

Stavros Mavroudeas

This unique and original book offers a critical survey of the regulation approach, an influential theoretical school born in the 1970s and belonging to the neo-Marxist and radical political economy traditions.
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Chapter 4: The Regulation Approach as a Middle-Range Theory

Stavros Mavroudeas


4.1 THE QUESTION OF THE METHOD Back in 1990, in my doctoral thesis (Mavroudeas (1990)), I argued that Regulation is a middle-range theory and that this methodological choice unites all its diverse sub-currents. Moreover, this is a constitutive feature of Regulation and not a fleeting characteristic. This argument has been also voiced in passing by Brenner and Glick (1991) but without further elaboration. It has also been recognized, again in passing, by Sayer (1995). However, this aspect of Regulation continues to be somewhat neglected. The middle-range approach per se is widely accepted by the regulationists. For Boyer (1987, pp. 6–8), all general economic theories (Keynesian, neo-classical and Marxist) mistreat reality. He argues for a historicistinstitutionalist approach based on intermediate concepts. If abstract concepts are required, then these can be drawn from a number of equally suitable general theories (Marxism, Keynesianism and institutionalism). This ostentatious display of general-theoretical referential pluralism characterizes Regulation from its very beginning; setting aside the special case of Aglietta’s first work. In CEPREMAP (1977), Lipietz presented Regulation’s Marxist pedigree, whereas Benassy proposed a neo-Keynesian interpretation; the remaining collaborating authors concentrated on historical and quantitative research. The methodological attributes and consequences of this middle-range perspective did not take long to appear in the work of each of its three major representatives (Boyer, Lipietz and Aglietta). Boyer (1990) begins with concrete historical cases (basically specific historical periods of specific national economies) and focuses upon their institutional forms. He employs historiography in order to produce a periodization of the...

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