States can be thought of as providing, distributing and regulating. They bake cakes, slice them, and proffer pieces as inducements to steer events. Regulation is that large subset of governance that is about steering the flow of events, as opposed to providing and distributing. Of course when regulators regulate, they often steer the providing and distributing that regulated actors supply.
My work builds on Jacint Jordana and David Levi-Faur’s (2003, 2004) systematic evidence that, since 1980, states have become rather more preoccupied with the regulation part of governance and less with providing. For example, look at this dynamic data supplied by David Levi-Faur and Jacint Jordana showing the diffusion of new business regulatory agencies:
This globalization of regulation (see also Global Business Regulation with Peter Drahos) occurs at the same time as a lot of privatization and a growth of competition regulation that renders markets more vibrant. The pattern in the above data describes a rise of regulatory capitalism rather than the ‘regulatory state’ because markets get stronger at the same time as the state grows stronger. Yet non-state regulation has grown even more rapidly. This is another reason why it is not best to conceive of the era in which we live as one of the regulatory state, but of regulatory capitalism. This involves expansion of the scope, arenas, instruments and depth of regulation.
Levi-Faur (2005) identifies transitions from laissez-faire capitalism (1800s-1930s) to welfare capitalism (1930s-1970s) to regulatory capitalism (1970s on). Much earlier transitions began from feudalism to more welfarist and regulatory capitalism.