This article, and the special issue it introduces, explores whether, and how, the rise of the regulatory state in the South, and its implications for processes of governance, are distinct from cases in the North. With the exception of a small but growing body of work on Latin America, most work on the regulatory state deals with the US or Europe, or takes a relatively undifferentiated “legal transplant” approach to the developing world. We focus on regulatory agencies as a particular expression of the regulatory state, though we acknowledge that the two are by no means synonymous. The article provides a theoretical framework for considering empirical case studies in this emerging area of scholarship, and synthesizes the case studies of infrastructure regulators (water, electricity and telecoms) that follow in this special issue, which are drawn from India, Colombia, Brazil and the Philippines. The intent is to draw out common themes that characterize a “regulatory state of the South,” while remaining sensitive to the variations in level of economic development and political institutional contexts within “the South.” Three entry points into exploring the distinctive nature of the regulatory state in the South are discussed. First, to what extent and how is the regulatory state of the South shaped by the presence of powerful external pressures, especially from international financial institutions, to adopt particular policy transplants? Second, what are the implications of the greater intensity of redistributive politics in settings where infrastructure services are of extremely poor quality and often non-existent? Third, how does limited state capacity affect the trajectory of the regulatory state in the South? The article points towards key dimensions of the work required to develop these starting points, in particular highlighting the salience of actors other than regulatory agencies (courts, civil society groups, the government, private operators) in understanding the distinctive nature of the regulatory state of the South?