Sub-theme 75: The Rise of Regulatory Intermediaries in Governance: How Does It Transform Organizations and Organizing? ---> MERGED with sub-theme 03


Call for Papers

For more than a decade, governance studies have been documenting the era of “regulatory capitalism” (Levi-Faur & Jordana, 2005). Regulatory capitalism creates tremendous challenges and opportunities for organizations. This capitalism is characterized by an explosion of regulations (Waddock, 2008), that are expanding in scope and breadth, carrying increasingly heterogeneous claims from all spheres of society (Abbott & Snidal, 2009) at national and transnational levels (Djelic & Quack, 2018). While regulations in this capitalism are often described as “soft” (Mörth, 2004), Foucauldian insights reveal how they nonetheless pervade most organizations through “technologies of governance” (Miller & Rose, 1990) such as standards (Ansari et al., 2014), tools (Gond & Nyberg, 2016) or normative evaluations (Florman et al., 2016), which altogether deeply transform organizational life (Power, 1997).
In this complex environment, recent scholarship points toward the central importance of regulatory intermediaries (RI). RIs are defined as actors who stand between rule-makers and rule-takers (Abbott et al., 2017; Brès et al., 2019). RIs can be social auditors monitoring Chinese factories’ compliance with the Fair Labor Association’s code of conduct (Paiement, 2019); local NGOs gathering witness and evidence for the International Criminal Court (Silva, 2017); credit rate agencies providing critical information to regulators of financial markets (Kruck, 2017); or committees of workers defining the Rugmark System’s expectations to their employers (Koenig-Archibugi & Macdonald, 2017).
Early work on this topic shows how RIs are challenging traditional definitions of organizations based on as “means-end rationality”, “hierarchical and centralized authority”, their “formal and encompassing rules”, and the “specialization and division of task” (Brès et al., 2018). As effective spokes persons for regulatory beneficiaries (Koenig-Archibugi & Macdonald, 2017), RIs such as NGOs, unions or investors are shifting organizations’ objectives (Monciardini & Conaldi, 2019) and blurring organization’s boundary with their environment. As translators of regulation (Mehrpouya & Samiolo, 2018; Wedlin & Sahlin, 2017), RIs are reconfiguring organizations based on external rules and logics. As expert RIs, auditors (Lytton, 2017; Paiement, 2019), certifiers (Galland, 2017) or consultants (Brès & Gond, 2014) are gaining authority over organizations (Fransen & LeBaron, 2018). Hence, RIs as a phenomenon raises questions and open promising lines of research for the study of organization.
To explore the rise of RIs in regulatory capitalism, organization theories offers a promising conceptual framework. Particularly in light of recent developments on “organizing outside organizations”. Interested in collective actions in complex and fast-changing environments (Ahrne & Brunsson, 2008), some scholars have started to apply knowledge earned from the study of more traditional organization – i.e. about membership management or monitoring rules (Ahrne & Brunsson, 2011) – first to the study of unconventional organizations such “partial organization” (Ahrne & Brunsson, 2011) or “meta-organization” (Berkowitz & Dumez, 2016), and more recently to broader social contexts like platform economies (Berkowitz & Souchaud, 2019) or markets (Ahrne et al., 2014). On the one hand, the multiplication of RIs can be seen as adding a layer of complexity (Silva, 2017) to an already complex and fast-changing regulatory landscape (Heijden, 2017), a complexity that can be managed using conceptual tools of organizing. On the other hand, RIs can also be seen as islands of agency in complex ecosystems of regulation, and as such, as entry points for organizing those ecosystems.
In this subtheme, we want to explore further the phenomenon of RIs, its consequence for organizing and organization scholars. While we centre on the potential of cross-fertilizing literature on business regulation with theories of organization, we welcome all conceptual, empirical and methodological papers with an interest in RIs broadly defined as actors who stands between rule-takers and rule-makers. Possible questions include, but are not limited to:

  • How RIs influence organizations in terms of structures, membership, expertise, profession, hierarchies, boundaries, or relations to their environment?

  • How RIs challenge our theories of regulation and governance? For instance, regarding the transition from government to governance, the diffusion of new public management, or the enduring struggle between public- and private interest in the process of regulation.

  • How the rich pool of theories associated with organization studies such as population ecology, organizational institutionalism or network theory can tell us about the management of RIs?

  • In the broader debate about the betterment of business and organization, what is the role of RIs? Do RIs favour effective, inclusive and fair regulations, or do they worsen traditional pitfalls in business regulation such capture, audit fatigue or decoupling?

In regard to the 37th EGOS Colloquium’s topic, RIs have arguably an important influence over inclusiveness in societies for their key roles in regulation and policies. For instance, in the realm of inclusive innovation, scholarship depicts inclusion in terms of sectors (bringing in tradition/low-tech sectors), geography (promoting the periphery / non-capital city) and demographics (typically, boosting participation in terms of gender, ethnicity, sexuality and people with disabilities) (Klingler-Vidra & Liu, 2019; Zehavi & Breznitz, 2017). Policy efforts to promote greater inclusion, along these sectoral, spatial and demographic lines are being examined in the context of inclusive innovation, but not for the role of regulatory intermediaries who are actually those actors who put these very policies in practice (Mehrpouya, 2018). Letting RIs go unnoticed creates risks of exclusion from policy making and implementation of regulation (Miron Avidan, 2018; Pegram, 2017), while acknowledging their importance offers an opportunity to increase inclusiveness.


  • 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. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 44–88.
  • 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, 670 (1).
  • Ahrne, G., Aspers, P., & Brunsson, N. (2014): “The organization of markets.” Organization Studies, 36 (1), 7–27.
  • Ahrne, G., & Brunsson, N. (2008): Meta-Organizations. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.
  • Ahrne, G., & Brunsson, N. (2011): “Organization outside organizations: The significance of partial organization.” Organization, 18 (1), 83–104.
  • Ansari, S., Reinecke, J., & Spaan, A. (2014): “How are practices made to vary? Managing practice adaptation in a multinational corporation.” Organization Studies, 35 (9), 1313–1341.
  • Berkowitz, H., & Souchaud, A. (2019): “(Self-)regulation of sharing economy platforms through partial meta-organizing.” Journal of Business Ethics, 159 (4), 961–976.
  • 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.
  • Brès, L., Mena, S., & Salles-Djelic, M.-L. (2019): “Exploring the formal and informal roles of regulatory intermediaries in transnational multistakeholder regulation.” Regulation & Governance, 13 (2), 127–140.
  • Brès, L., Raufflet, E., & Boghossian, J. (2018): “Pluralism in organizations: Learning from unconventional forms of organizations.” International Journal of Management Reviews, 20 (2), 364–386.
  • Djelic, M.-L., & Quack, S. (2018): “Globalization and business regulation.” Annual Review of Sociology, 43 (1), 123–143.
  • Florman, M., Klingler-Vidra, R., & Facada, M.J. (2016): “A critical evaluation of social impact assessment methodologies and a call to measure economic and social impact holistically through the External Rate of Return platform.” Working paper.
  • Fransen, L., & LeBaron, G. (2018): “Assurance without liability, influence without accountability: Big audit firms as regulatory intermediaries in transnational labor governance.” Working paper.
  • Fransen, L., & Lebaron, G. (2018): “Big audit firms as regulatory intermediaries in transnational labor governance.” Regulation & Governance, 13 (2), 260–279.
  • Galland, J.-P. (2017): “Big third-party certifiers and the construction of transnational regulation.” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 670 (1), 263–279.
  • Gond, J.-P., & Nyberg, D. (2016): “Materializing power to recover corporate social responsibility.” Organization Studies, 38 (8), 1127–1148.
  • Koenig-Archibugi, M., & Macdonald, K. (2017): “The role of beneficiaries in transnational regulatory processes.” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 670 (1), 36–57.
  • Kruck, A. (2017): “Asymmetry in empowering and disempowering private intermediaries.” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 670 (1), 133–151.
  • Levi-Faur, D. (2012): The Oxford Handbook of Governance. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Levi-Faur, D., & Jordana, J. (2005): “The rise of regulatory capitalism: The global diffusion of a new order.” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 598 (1), 200–217.
  • Lytton, T.D. (2017): “The taming of the stew.” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 670 (1), 78–92.
  • Mehrpouya, A., & Samiolo, R. (2018): “Unbundling the knowledge work of regulatory intermediation; The case of the Access to Medicine Index.” Working paper.
  • Mehrpouya, J.B.A. (2018): “Mediation and legitimation: The case of ICLEI.” Working paper.
  • Miller, P., & Rose, N. (1990): “Governing economic life.” Economy and Society, 19 (1), 1–31.
  • Miron Avidan, D.E.J.G. (2018): “Information disclosure as regulatory intermediary: The case of Fracfocus.” Working paper.
  • Monciardini, D., & Conaldi, G. (2019): “The European regulation of corporate social responsibility: The role of beneficiaries' intermediaries.” Regulation & Governance, 13 (2), 240–259.
  • Mörth, U. (2004): Soft Law in Governance and Regulation: An Interdisciplinary Analysis. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.
  • Paiement, P. (2019): “The jurisgenerative role of social auditors in transnational labor governance.” Regulation & Governance, 13 (2), 280–298.
  • Pegram, T. (2017): “Regulatory stewardship and intermediation.” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 670 (1), 225–244.
  • Power, M. (1997): The Audit Society: Rituals of Verification. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Silva, N.D. (2017): “Intermediary complexity in regulatory governance.” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 670 (1), 170–188.
  • van der Heijden, J. (2017): “Brighter and darker sides of intermediation.” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 670 (1), 207–224.
  • Waddock, S. (2008): “Building a new institutional infrastructure for corporate responsibility.” Academy of Management Perspectives, 22 (3), 87–108.
  • Wedlin, L., & Sahlin, K. (2017): “The imitation and translation of management ideas.” In: R. Greenwood, C. Oliver, T.B. Lawrence & R.E. Meyer (eds.): The SAGE Handbook of Organizational Institutionalism. London: SAGE Publications, 102–127.