Increasingly, regulation is being seen as 'decentred' from the state, and even from the well recognised forums of self-regulation. A decentred analysis has several strands, and seeing the nature and problems of regulation from a decentred perspective can be very stimulating. It opens up the cognitive frame of what 'regulation' is, enabling commentators to spot regulation in previously unsuspected places. It can prompt policy thinkers in academia and government to consider a wide range of different configurations of state, market, community, associations and networks to deliver public policy goals. But a decentred understanding of regulation also raises quite fundamental questions of the nature and understanding of regulation, the consequent role of the state, and our understanding of law. It means we can no longer escape the need to address the question of just what it is that is being 'decentred', of what it is that we want the concept of 'regulation' to do, and what some of the implications of that decision might be. The answers to these questions are at best contested and at worse simply incoherent. It is a debate which is sorely needed, however, and which it is the aim of the paper to promote
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