Honoring Robert A. Kagan

Professor Robert A. Kagan, at a Penn Program on Regulation conference in 2011.
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In a five-part series, The Regulatory Review explores and honors the contributions of political scientist Robert A. Kagan.

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What explains why some companies comply with the law when other companies don’t?  Can government officials induce better regulatory compliance by interacting cooperatively with the businesses they oversee?  Can U.S. policymaking overall be improved by lessening conflict and resorting less frequently to legalistic rules?

These are central questions about how regulatory law operates – questions that have been framed and answered through a lifetime of pioneering research by Robert A. Kagan, the emeritus Emanuel S. Heller Professor of Law and Professor of Political Science at the University of California at Berkeley.  Earlier this fall, the American Political Science Association’s (APSA) Law and Courts Section honored Kagan by presenting him with its prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award.

To celebrate Kagan’s monumental contributions to the study of regulation and regulatory processes, The Regulatory Review presents this series of essays on Kagan and his scholarship.  Each essay draws on remarks delivered by other law and social science scholars at an APSA panel held in Kagan’s honor.  At the end of the series, The Regulatory Review will also feature the remarks Professor Kagan delivered upon accepting his award, an essay that offers a fascinating autobiographical window into the life of a truly masterful regulatory scholar.

Kagan’s work continues to pay dividends to those who study it and take it seriously.  In an article appearing recently in the journal Law & Social Inquiry, Professor Keith Hawkins of Oxford University declared that “Kagan can justifiably claim to be the first sociolegal scholar to have produced sustained research on the practices and processes of governmental regulation.”  Hawkins rightly praised Kagan’s work for being “constantly innovative” and for “displaying an instinct for what really matters in policy terms.”

That keen instinct has now been acknowledged with the presentation of APSA’s Lifetime Achievement Award, but it was reflected for some time in the myriad empirical studies that Kagan’s research spawned – not to mention also in the work by others that on occasion sparred with Kagan’s arguments.  Kagan combined his keen instinct with a deep scholarly acumen, making his body of work enormously influential among scholars and within popular discourse.  Just last week, Francis Fukuyama highlighted Kagan’s work in an essay in The American Interest and David Brooks cited “adversarial legalism” in his New York Times column.

Today, as ever, Kagan’s scholarship finds itself deeply embedded in debates over regulation and public policy, raising and seeking to answer perennial questions.  The Regulatory Review is pleased to provide this opportunity to join in celebrating Robert A. Kagan and his lifetime of scholarly achievement.

Kagan the Explorer 

December 16, 2013  |  Thomas F. Burke & Jeb Barnes

“Like a botanist in the tropics, intrigued but overwhelmed by a profusion of flora, what Robert Kagan saw when he looked at law and society in the late 20th and early 21st Century was law growing everywhere-law pouring out of every institution, law seeping into the nooks and crannies of everyday life, law growing both in its reach and density.”

Robert A. Kagan: Man of Style

December 17, 2013  |  Cary Coglianese

“In recognizing Robert A. Kagan with its Lifetime Achievement Award, the American Political Science Association’s Section on Law and Courts has honored not merely a scholar of great distinction in the study of law – but also a man of style.”

Kagan the Comparativist 

December 18, 2013  |  R. Daniel Kelemen

“Over the course of his career, Robert Kagan has demonstrated again and again an extraordinary ability to ask the right questions. Kagan’s work on American law and regulation, from works like Going by the Book to Adversarial Legalism, poses fundamental questions about the nature of regulation in the United States.”

Robert A. Kagan: Scholar of Professional Expertise

December 19, 2013  |  Charles R. Epp

“Robert Kagan’s research is distinguished by his extraordinary ability to ask productive research questions and, in addressing them, to combine rich conceptual development, macro-level comparison, and close empirical analysis of processes at the micro level.”

My Pathway 

December 20, 2013  |  Robert A. Kagan

“The generous and insightful comments by Professors Barnes, Burke, Coglianese, Epp, and Kelemen have encouraged me to see if I too could identify some themes in my scholarly career. That led me to the following autobiographical reflections.”

Please click here for the full text of Professor Kagan’s essay, including some additional footnotes.