Watching the Watchmaker: On Regulating the Social in Lieu of the Technical

Research output: Working paper


This paper looks at the problem of expertise in regulation by examining the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) ‘type-certification’ process, through which they evaluate new designs of civil aircraft. It notes that the FAA delegate a large amount of this work to the manufacturers themselves, and discusses why they do this by invoking arguments from the sociology of science and technology. It suggests that – contrary to popular portrayal – regulators of ‘high’ technologies face an inevitable epistemic barrier when making technological assessments, which forces them to delegate technical questions to people with more tacit knowledge, and hence to ‘regulate’ at a distance by evaluating ‘trust’ rather than ‘technology’. It then unravels some of the implications of this and its relation to our theories of regulation and ‘regulatory capture’.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherLondon School of Economics: Centre for Analysis of Risk and Regulation
Number of pages27
ISBN (Electronic)78-0-85328-396-6
ISBN (Print)9780853283966
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2009

Publication series

NameCARR Discussion Papers
PublisherLondon School of Economics


  • Regulatory capture
  • Aviation regulation
  • Federal Aviation Administration


Dive into the research topics of 'Watching the Watchmaker: On Regulating the Social in Lieu of the Technical'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this