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1Why and to what extent do “target populations” [1] behave the way policymakers expect them to? In political science, this issue of “compliance” [2] has largely been overlooked. Most research focuses on the elaboration of public policy. This is the case across most academic approaches and fields. Most policy analysis concerns the production of the means and ends of state intervention, [3] even when it specifically addresses policy implementation (delivery analysis). [4] The same shortcoming can be found in fields whose conceptual frameworks could be used to study the behavior of target populations. The literature on public policy instruments – of which there is a substantial amount in English, and which has become a booming field in French – has this limitation. [5] So does “socio-history”. [6] As a result, we know relatively little about the effects of policy instruments on target populations. [7] Aside from a few exceptions, a similar focus on the elaboration of public policy can be found in work on policy design, which dominates the literature on target populations. [8]

2Nor has the question of the impact of public policy on individuals been extensively dealt with within interdisciplinary studies of governmentality; an approach which would seem especially disposed to analyzing how policies structure individual actions, since it is meant to deal with the orientation of behavior. Yet this school also takes the viewpoint of those who govern – by studying the practices of government and how they are conceived [9] – rather than that of the governed. In the end, only a handful of political scientists have focused on the study of compliance (scholars like Christopher Hood, Robert Kagan, Margaret Levi, Ron Mitchell, John Scholz, and George Tsebelis).

3However, another research scene emerges if one moves beyond disciplinary boundaries. A number of pluri- and interdisciplinary studies focus directly on the problem of compliance. There was certainly a renewal of interest in the question in American sociology during the 1960s and 1970s. [10] Yet the first interdisciplinary work on the subject was in response to economists’ initial ventures into the field of penal policies (following the work of Gary Becker and George Stigler). [11] Often associated with socio-legal studies, this vein of research explored the regulation of social activities other than market behavior (which itself had been extensively studied in economics).

Compliance and logics of action

4This new literature provides a number of interesting reflections on compliance. It has successively borrowed from a variety of theoretical methods. Initially, two main approaches crossed swords.

5The first concerns decision theories, in particular the contributions of Gary Becker and Georges Stigler. [12] Their work is based on the premise of lone actors who choose among the various alternatives presented to them on the basis of greatest gain and least cost. [13] As such, the recipients of public action are egotistical, utilitarian, and willing to decide their strategy once and for all in reference to a fixed standard. This hypothesis has inspired a certain number of studies. Their main argument can be briefly summarized: the best way to improve compliance is to raise the fine for infractions (principally in relation to fighting crime) or to offer a bonus or other monetary incentive for cooperation (an argument that is often made for environmental policies). In fact, such predictions are of limited value. A variety of empirical studies have shown that punishment or the threat of punishment is a poor explanation for (non)compliant behavior. [14]

6In particular, the critique of these studies has come from game theory. Game theory introduces a more interactive and dynamic analysis of target populations’ behavior. It also takes into account the fact that individual choices are inserted in pre-existing structures of relations. In other words, whereas a decision theory approach, like the one used by Becker, assumes that recipients make choices as a function of a fixed set of constraints, game theory approaches take into account (mainly endogenous) variations in these constraints. Actors adjust their behavior according to other actors’ choices, which can result in counter-intuitive results. [15] For example, it is possible that an increase in the fines imposed for non-compliance will have no positive or negative effect on compliance. [16] In certain conditions, greater compliance can even be expected to result from a reduction of fines. [17]

7Game theory has produced a certain number of prescriptive suggestions. [18] For instance, “tripartism”, [19] is still influential in studies on compliance and in policy-making communities. Another interest of these studies is that they show that it is not necessary to assume a non-utilitarian reasoning in order to reveal counter-intuitive phenomena.

8Nonetheless, beyond logical demonstration, game theory has a number of limitations. In empirical studies, it can provide a reference point, but it cannot replace an explanatory theory. Generally, when game theory is not used to highlight the absence of an optimal strategy, [20] it is used to produce normative recommendations. It does so at the cost of masking the diversity of real interactions and their trajectories. [21] Above all, this approach’s contributions have not been able to improve our understanding of the “mix” of motivations that can be combined in each particular game. A main hypothesis in all of these studies – whether they draw on decision theory or game theory – is that actors seek to maximize their gains and minimize their losses, either when they make choices or at the end of the game. All motivations besides the maximization of individual utility are ignored.

9There have been a few attempts to combine a rational-choice type of analysis with another approach (for instance, March and Olsen’s “logic of appropriateness”). [22] Such efforts have amalgamated different logics of action, but they have failed to produce a new integrated theory. The most well-known example is the important theoretical contribution of Ayres and Braithwaite, [23] which combines a utilitarian theory of compliance behavior (within a game-theory approach) and a theory of trust similar to the theories of action dear to neoinstitutionalist sociology. For Ayres and Braithwaite, trust is based on an “idealist” theory of exchanges between regulator and regulatee. It is therefore an ad hoc solution to the problem of maintaining a cooperative balance between different parties, an issue raised by utilitarian analysis. Trust is a necessary complement to game theory’s simplistic hypotheses about actors’ motivations. Ayres and Braithwaite’s proposition is therefore to combine an “economic” theory (game theory) and an “idealist” theory (which they call “empowerment”). The result is a problematic compromise between two approaches that are coherent when used alone but are contradictory when superimposed in this way. [24]

10The overwhelming majority of literature on compliance produced between the 1980s and the early 2000s resulted in this sort of compromising mix of heterogeneous models. Scholars stacked diverse theories of action on top of one another – adding a theory for each of the ideal-typical groups they observed or constructed within a target population. [25] Schematically, two basic approaches are generally combined. A utilitarian theory of action is applied to “amoral calculators”, [26] “bad apples”, [27] or “opportunists”. [28] The sole motivation of such actors is the minimization of costs or the maximization of gains. By contrast, a theory of normed or appropriate action is applied to “virtuous” actors, “citizens”, or “good apples”. It is assumed that these virtuous individuals act according to considerations of fairness or what interiorized social norms tell them to do. The main weakness of these analytic frameworks is their inability to explain behavioral dynamics. They often assume that an actor can evolve, moving schematically from one group – and logic – to another. To say the least, such a move is abrupt from an analytic point of view. Moreover, it is often very difficult to know by which mechanisms it occurs.

11Faced with a multiplicity of possible motivations but only using one-dimensional theories to account for them, some scholars assume that many motives – such as individual interest and moral duty – are opposing and incompatible logics. [29] For instance, in the work of Ayres and Braithwaite, a person either seeks his personal interest or acts by trust. He cannot pursue these two goals at the same time.

12A variety of empirical studies, most of them recent, have revealed the shortcomings of these heterogeneous frameworks. This work shows that a number of different motivations, in concert, often provide the best explanation for actors’ responses to public appeals. [30] By assuming the contrary, most existing models remain simplistic and they often have limited practical applicability. These shortcomings are especially apparent when regulated activities achieve a certain degree of complexity, [31] as in the case of a social dilemma – a situation where a social group’s common interest is opposed to the individual interests of each of the group’s members (for example, in the use of a collective natural resource). Current models are more useful for analyzing behavior in simpler situations, for example when the search for profit is largely dominant (as in a very competitive market). Take for instance Mitchell’s analysis of compliance with international rules banning intentional oil pollution at sea. Here a strictly utilitarian framework does help account for the data and observations collected. [32] By contrast, purely utilitarian approaches are unable to explain empirical observations on tax compliance and evasion. [33]

13These theoretical failures are related to the more general problem of systematization that affects this field. We now have a mass of empirical studies and theoretical propositions, but the literature has struggled to draw them together, still unable to combine the results of different factors of (non)compliance: target populations’ social, political, and economic environment; their peers and the role peers play in encouraging or discouraging compliance; public inspectors’ style and interactions with regulatees; the instruments that agents use to implement policies; political institutions and their legitimacy; the probability and severity of sanction in case of non-compliance; values and the sense of civic duty; attitude towards authority; etc.

14So far, no formalization has been able to integrate the wealth of situations and factors studied, much less offer a common framework for interpreting compliance. The assessment given by Fiona Haines eleven years ago still remains valid:


“I would argue that what is lacking from the current debate [on regulation] is the jump from grounded theory to formal theory… The tendency is for each study to simply add to the list of empirical research, a list which simply grows longer, more complex, and packed ever more densely with insights that are unable to be accessed easily. Unless this growing list of research touches base with some formal theoretical base, repetition of insight is likely to characterize the regulation debate for some time to come.” [34]

16One of the main issues this field of research faces is therefore to produce a coherent framework of analysis that can integrate the insights of the current literature and clarify present debates. From the viewpoint of theories of action, the diverse motivations simultaneously at work in the responses of target populations express the multiplicity of causes of (non)compliant behavior. [35] These causal factors include the subjects’ relationships to social norms, their fear of legal sanctions, their search for personal gain, their defense and enactment of values, their emotions (pleasure, anger, envy, shame, guilt, and pride), etc. Explaining this complexity requires theorizing individual action as the result of a plurality of motivations that operate simultaneously. However, as we have seen, the immense majority of scholars in this field use only one-dimensional models of individual action, which they borrow from the most classic action theories.

New directions for theorizing compliance

17In recent years, theorists have explored three main approaches for explaining the complex factors and mechanisms that determine compliance. The first approach borrows insights from neo-institutionalist literature, an increasingly common method. The second strategy is to approach compliance from the perspective of social norms. In particular, proponents of rational choice theory have preferred this line of attack. Finally, a third group of studies explicitly aims to reconstruct a more complex and more realistic model of the recipient actor. To do so, they borrow heavily from psychology.

The neo-institutionalist approach

18Socio-legal researchers discovered neo-institutionalism [36] at the end of the 1990s. [37] It retained several things from this encounter: a coherent narrative about the uncertainty and chaotic nature of organizational choices; the importance of institutions in structuring decisionmaking processes; and the general goal of legitimization that pushes organizations to develop or conform to institutions. One of the advantages of neo-institutionalism for studies of compliance is the effort made to reconcile the different dimensions of a choice: cognition (to perceive, to know), affect (feelings, moral engagement), and evaluation (calculation). As Black has noted, the neo-institutionalist approach offers multiple solutions to the problem of integrating these plural logics. [38]

19Economists (as well as several political scientists) have retained the notion of a rational individual, seeking to maximize his individual interest. However, they have also integrated the limits of rationality and the role that social norms play via institutions, which constrain actors’ choices. In other words, actors maximize utility within the limits laid down by institutions. [39] March and Olsen take a different tack. Assuming that the logic of appropriateness is pre-eminent, these two authors insist on the importance of action routines and on the role played by relations of trust in the maintenance of rules and the behaviors rules command. March and Olsen maintain this emphasis even as they insist that consequentialist behaviors of anticipation are also possible. Their response to the question of the respective importance of these logics is pragmatic: “it depends”. [40] Finally, Stinchcombe and several others take the analysis further still. They claim that institutions define actors’ preferences and therefore constitute the link between a logic of consequences and a logic of appropriateness. According to this analysis, even the pursuit of individual interest is institutionally contingent. [41] As such, actions and social relations can have both an instrumental and a symbolic dimension. The coexistence of competing institutional orders that structure actors’ behavior [42] can help explain the diversity of observations. In these studies, there emerges an “institutionally rational” actor. [43]

20The main interest of the neo-institutionalist approach for studying compliance is that it conceptualizes the influence of institutions on behavior. It makes it possible to analyze compliance as the result of an institutional isomorphism, [44] in particular when legal requirements are ambiguous or contradictory. [45] Another useful element in these studies for understanding compliance is that they highlight the role of myths and symbols in decision-making and behavior. Meyer and Rowan highlight the frequent decoupling between formal structures and practices. [46] They also show the importance of ceremonial conformity, which echoes ritualistic compliance. This tendency – which is well known in socio-legal approaches [47] – corresponds to cases in which recipients formally comply but still maintain non-compliant practices. [48] The importance that neo-institutionalism lends to interpersonal relationships and to trust in interactions also makes it possible to introduce new arguments for explaining variations in the implementation of policies. Interactions between regulators and the regulated can be influenced by the goal of preserving trust. [49]

21Nonetheless, neo-institutionalism has no stable and precise theoretical framework for making sense of actors’ behavior. It is a splintered literature that is only logically coherent in its general claims. [50] As a result, it is only useful for interpreting empirical findings after the fact. Moreover, neo-institutionalism offers few elements for predicting when a decision is likely to be structured by institutions or, on the contrary, when it will be left to the contingencies of temporality along the lines of the garbage-can model. [51] Finally, neo-institutionalist authors have a vision of the law that contradicts the emphasis on fluidity that they otherwise take for granted. For many of these scholars, the law is the ultimate producer of routines and compliance. [52] In that sense, neo-institutionalism ignores the problem of conflicting rules. Conflicts can arise between a legal rule and a social norm or even between different legal rules. By contrast, this issue is central to the socio-legal approach. [53]

22Borrowing from neo-institutionalism has not solved all the problems of the literature on compliance. [54] In particular, it has not produced a theory that either integrates the motivations of recipient actors or is capable of explaining – much less predicting – their behavior.

The role of social norms

23A second avenue for research that has been explored recently concerns the role of social norms. Here, social norms are understood in the classic sense of unwritten rules shared by a group, the respect of which is sanctioned both positively and negatively by the group’s members. The goal of various recent studies has been to measure the pertinence of social norms as an extra determinant of compliance (in addition to individual interest). Most of this work is theoretical, but some of it is empirical. Much of it has been done by sociologists, political scientists, [55] and legal scholars. [56]

24These studies generally explore the issue of compliance indirectly. For example, Bird or Horne’s goal is first and foremost to improve the integration of social norms in a theory of rational choice, following in the footsteps of Coleman. [57] They seek to include the role of others, or of emotions such as guilt or shame, in a utilitarian argument, assuming that these aspects can be added to the cost/benefit equation. Their aim is to produce a logical and coherent theoretical framework, rather than proposing realistic causal mechanisms. The results are sometimes disappointing. For example, Horne’s experimental studies on cooperative games conclude that trust and the interpersonal aspects of a relationship are important for subjects. As such, Horne’s work simply restates the findings of older studies and models, without really improving on them. [58] Above all, these studies only incidentally concern compliance with public regulation and they are not intended to integrate the entire range of relevant empirical findings.

25Nonetheless, there are other studies that do not share these characteristics and which sometimes are more broadly applicable to the issue of target populations’ motivations. [59] One of the most interesting contributors to this debate is Stig Gezelius, a Norwegian sociologist. Gezelius has tried to reconstruct a theory of compliance with public action through an approach inspired by Durkheim, in a detailed study of two fishing communities in the northwestern Atlantic. His work is very subtle. It empirically identifies strategic (or instrumental) responses to social norms and distinguishes them from norm-oriented behavior. The result is not an integrated theory of motivation in a strict sense. Instead, it is a detailed demonstration of the mechanisms by which actors accommodate norms in small communities, which are nearly isolated and depend on a collective resource. The choice of this context for observation is an inherent weakness of the study. It has features that are rarely observed in the real world (such as strong links of acquaintanceship between recipients, dependence on a collective resource, and membership in a clearly identified group, which is small and homogeneous). The (substantial) interest of his work is therefore limited to situations where the target population presents these features.

Psycho-economic theories

26The third approach for theorizing compliance has given rise to more complex models of individual rationality by borrowing concepts from psychology. Its main contributors integrate, within a coherent conceptual framework, the main individual motivations identified in the empirical literature. An effort of translation has been necessary to include disparate motivations in integrated theories of action. These theories’ explanatory power and realism have come away improved. The studies in this field use numerous psychological concepts (such as motivation, attitude, bias, and heuristics). That makes them an extension of various studies on the limits of rationality, in particular the work of Herbert Simon, Daniel Kahneman, and Amos Tversky. In order to explain this body of literature, I will discuss at length three recent models that use different strategies to explain compliance. [60]

The motivational posturing theory of Braithwaite et al.

27Motivational posturing theory is one of the integrated approaches to compliance in the socio-legal vein. [61] It is based on certain psychological studies of constraint and how people manage and respond to it. This research produced Brehm and Brehm’s theory of reactance, which predicts that any attempt to control an actor through rewards, penalties, or special surveillance may in fact generate a reaction opposite to the one desired. [62] Reactance, in this sense, is a strong motivation opposing the goal of external control.

28Although it was initially intended as a way of isolating the role of social interactions from other variables that determine the behavior of recipients, in its later version motivational posturing theory has taken a turn inspired by the theory of reactance. [63] In these recent studies, public regulation is analyzed as an intrusion on individual freedom. The demand for compliance and the coercive power of the state are analyzed as threats to target populations. Motivational postures are the means by which actors handle these threats and keep government at bay. Therefore, motivational postures are defined as “conglomerates of beliefs, attitudes, preferences, interests, and feelings that together communicate the degree to which an individual accepts the agenda of the regulator, in principle, and endorses the way in which the regulator functions and carries out duties on a daily basis”. [64] Since motivational postures are assumed to summarize the combined effects of multiple factors, the theory is able to incorporate a certain number of empirical findings and theoretical propositions from the existing literature. [65] Moreover, the theory incorporates studies on “procedural justice” on an ad hoc basis. It especially uses them as a “cure” for problems raised by the conceptualization of law as a “threat” in a democratic context. In doing so, the theory more broadly echoes the theme of the legitimacy of control, which is also an important parameter in the theory of reactance. [66]

29On the basis of empirical studies, five motivational postures have been identified. They correspond more or less to target populations’ strategies for responding to public policy demands. The postures are commitment, resistance, capitulation, disengagement, and game playing. Moreover, these strategies are amalgamated into two “supra-postures”: resistance/ cooperation (which includes the first three postures) and dismissiveness, which reflects public authority’s loss of legitimacy (this covers the latter two postures). As might be expected, these authors claim a correlation between resistance, dismissiveness, and non-compliance, and another correlation between cooperation and compliance. The supra-postures are themselves associated with (and analytically caused by) “coping sensibilities”. Coping sensibilities are ways of responding to the “threat” posed by government regulation. They present very clear similarities with logics described in other theories, especially the three paradigms of the theory of action identified by Schimank: emotional man, homo oeconomicus and homo sociologicus. [67] Coping sensibilities are distinguished according to whether they are first and foremost a form of emotion management (“feeling oppressed”), a form of problem solving (a “problem-focused approach”), or a form of acceptance and rationalization associated with a moral attitude (“thinking morally”). [68]

30Among a tax-paying population, for example, different coping sensibilities are expressed at once. Like postures, these mechanisms are widely shared narratives. However, one of these sensibilities can dominate the others. The theory does not explain by what mechanism this happens or how the articulation between the dominant sensibility and dominated sensibilities occurs. [69] When any of these sensibilities becomes dominant, it reinforces one of the “supra-postures”. The model is simple enough to link sensibilities and supra-postures termfor-term. Emotional management reinforces the supra-posture of resistance and weakens that of cooperation. Problem-oriented management reinforces the supra-posture of dismissiveness. And moral management strengthens the supra-posture of cooperation while weakening that of dismissiveness.

Figure 1

A schematic representation of the motivational posturing model

Figure 1

A schematic representation of the motivational posturing model

31One might expect a formulation of relatively precise hypotheses, but the authors do not make any. They prefer instead to make a general hypothesis: that coping sensibilities will be exacerbated among taxpayers in conflict with state inspectors.

32In fact, the results of a study conducted in Australia are disappointing. The study concerned two distinct sets of taxpayers, assembled for the experiment, who showed entirely different patterns of compliance with tax rules. The two groups had roughly the same structure of sensibilities. [70] The only difference was that these sensibilities were expressed more clearly among the group that was in conflict with tax authorities. The authors saw this as a confirmation of their overarching hypothesis. [71] They did not consider alternative explanations. For example, one might take into account the groups’ relative degree of mobilization and information (the group “in conflict” with tax authorities was defined by their use of tax consultants).

33In addition, none of the other hypotheses that could be drawn from the model were tested. Other results of the analysis are more convincing but are also trivial. For instance, when authorities pursue fraudsters, the supra-posture of dismissiveness weakens and the likelihood of prosecution is seen as being more important. [72] Above all, the Australian study cannot show whether the sensibilities or postures in question are actually causal patterns or simply indicators of another causal pattern that explains the observed behavior (of compliance or non-compliance). Therefore, it is impossible to know if the proposed concepts are causes or effects of other causes. Braithwaite et al. anticipate this critique [73] but evade it, abandoning any defense of a model that had until then been highly deterministic. They affirm that there are no simple and unidirectional relationships of causality and that actors make sense of their environment and their position through a perpetual, repetitive process. [74]

34One can also criticize the premises of these authors’ theorization. To begin with, they assume that a moral posture is the only one associated with a behavior of compliance; in return, they take for granted that an emotional or strategic attitude reinforces behaviors of defiance. [75] By making such assumptions, the authors neglect compliant behavior that can result from opportunist reasoning. [76] Likewise, a moral attitude is not necessarily correlated to compliant behavior if the norms or values supported by the actors are incompatible with those maintained by public authorities. Here too, solid empirical studies contradict the authors’ hypotheses. [77]

35Another questionable theoretical position in these studies is to define public policy as a “threat”. In fact, policy can also help create the sensibilities through which target populations perceive public solicitations. They do so through efforts to frame an issue, [78] through various symbolic instruments or informational tools, [79] and more generally through practices of government. [80] For instance, concerning taxation, Steglich notes that we can expect different reactions to a tax depending on whether it is defined as a racket or as a contribution to the common good. Moreover, the experiments he conducted on this point tend to show the effectiveness of public efforts to frame target populations’ behavior. [81] The premise that “regulation = a threat” is therefore problematic because it is too general. This conceptualization runs against the strong critique of identifying law with constraint, or with coercion, as it has been developed by legal philosophy in particular. [82] More broadly, if public action is always assumed to be a threat, we cannot understand and describe in a nuanced manner the different styles of implementation (such as an “adversarial” style versus a “negotiated” style). Public regulation would be nothing more than a continuum ranging from a weak or disguised threat to an obvious threat and conflict.

36On the whole, then, the motivational posturing model is ambitious and parsimonious, but it has multiple pitfalls.

Scholz’s model of the adaptive contractarian

37A more convincing model is that of the “adaptive contractarian”, proposed by the political scientist John Scholz. Scholz has used game theory to understand the interactions between regulators and the regulated. In doing so, he proposed a particularly advanced version of regulation games [83] and a detailed analysis of their limits. [84] In other publications, he has developed the question of compliance in a behavioral psychology perspective. [85] Scholz’s goal was to formulate an explanation of compliance behaviors that overcomes the hypothesis of “heroic” rationality found in political economy and rational choice institutionalism. [86] Scholz has only worked on tax policy, with a few exceptions. [87]

38He first tried to define a set of heuristics that would enable him to explain the differences between observable practices and the predictions made by models of utilitarian actors possessing perfect information. The keywords of his analysis are “bounded rationality”, “bias”, [88] “cognitive shortcuts”, and “heuristics”. [89] Scholz’s early writings on this point are not his most convincing ones. However, they reflect his willingness – which he later made more explicit and more persuasive – to propose an “integrated perspective” [90] on motivations that can explain individuals’ compliance or non-compliance with public regulation.

39Scholz situates his work within Margaret Levi’s contingent consent model. This model assumes that actors comply with legal obligations provided that the state is trustworthy and that other actors, faced with the same obligations, comply with them too. Like Levi, Scholz builds his argument around the hypothesis of an implicit contract between the regulator and the regulated in the production of public goods. [91] The recipient actor is situated in the framework of this implicit contract, by which the state provides an institutional solution to a problem of collective action. The actor’s behavior is therefore analyzed as that of an “adaptive contractarian”.

40Adaptive contractarians are utilitarian. They seek to maximize their benefits and to limit their costs. However, since their rationality is bounded, their ability to decide when they are subjected to public regulation is dependent on certain cognitive abilities. In particular, they use heuristics for minimizing the effort required to make decisions in routine situations. [92] Scholz has defined a duty heuristic and a trust heuristic. These heuristics are supposed to help individuals assess situations in which they are confronted with public action and choose whether to comply or not comply with the obligations it imposes.

41Heuristics emerge through interpersonal interactions, in which actors acquire a body of knowledge or reflexes that allow them to easily identify reliable partners and to exchange with them. [93] Some of this knowledge (especially emotional) is intended to alert the actor as to whether other people are trustworthy or not. That helps them recognize, honor, or sanction reciprocity. This trust heuristic is the functional equivalent of an institution, because it allows for cooperation by reducing problems of moral hazard. In a certain sense, it is the behaviorist counterpart to the norm of reciprocity that Blau considers necessary and integral to any social exchange. [94] In accordance with the biography of each individual, this basic cognitive baggage can be enriched by other heuristics (in particular, the duty heuristic). It can also be generalized to interactions with other actors or with institutions beyond the actor’s immediate entourage. The repertoire of heuristics which citizens can use to manage conflicts between individual rationality and collective rationality is determined by the historical process of a society’s development. [95] The evaluation of procedural justice is another type of heuristic shortcut. [96] As Scholz explains:


“The model of the citizen as an adaptive contractarian suggests that people fulfill obligations to institutions that provide long-term benefits in excess of the short-term costs. As with individual exchanges, the adaptive contractarian monitors the exchange relationship through adaptive attitudes toward the institution and the obligations it imposes…These attitudes, in turn, affect the likelihood that the individual will fulfill his or her obligations to the organization. Attitude monitors produce a contingency strategy in which the fulfillment of obligations depends on how well the institution upholds the individual’s rights and produces the expected benefits.” [97]

43Scholz claims that his model integrates the main motivations in classic theories of deterrence and duty – respectively, the fear of punishment and the normative sense of having to comply with legal obligations. He believes that some recipients will only meet their obligations if they are coerced. He also considers that compliance is motivated first and foremost by a moral commitment, although he adds that this commitment is contingent on the actions of the state and other recipients. [98] All of these motivations are articulated in a hierarchical order based on their relevance and accessibility. Take for example the realm of tax policy. Assuming that compliance is primarily a moral commitment, Scholz believes that variations in the behavior of taxpayers will be influenced first and foremost by changes in process and procedural justice; secondly by changes in tax policy (which requires an assessment in terms of costs); and in third place, by changes in the benefits taxpayers get from the policies financed by taxes. [99]

Figure 2

A schematic representation of the adaptive contractarian model

Figure 2

A schematic representation of the adaptive contractarian model

44Scholz is one of the few theorists in the field who extends his reasoning to the macro-sociological level and takes into account aggregation effects. But he is also very explicit about the limits of theorizing such an object. He writes,


“It is not clear… how quickly an individual’s sense of obligation responds to positive and negative experiences and information about the government. [100]… At present, our theoretical tools and empirical analyses can only warn us of the kinds of conditions that might induce failure.” [101]

46Despite these limits – which are shared by all existing theories – Scholz’s analytical framework is currently the most successful at explaining compliance with taxes. We can nevertheless make a certain number of critiques.

47First, Scholz does not specify the mechanisms by which the characteristics of public action affect the attitudes of recipients. Instead, he describes generalized empirical correlations. Scholz simply enumerates the reasons why it is necessary for the costs and benefits of public policies, questions of procedural justice, and the behavior of other recipients to be independent variables of compliance – instead of specifying causal links between them. The reasons he provides are twofold. There are normative reasons: to ensure the main elements of democracy by protecting citizens’ rights and the welfare of the community. There are also functional reasons: to ensure the effectiveness of the state as a producer of public goods and as the principal weapon against free riders. For example, the behavior of other recipients of tax policy is important for the model primarily to the extent that a growing degree of tax evasion would entail the failure of state institutions as the solution to a problem of collective action.

48Secondly, Scholz claims to incorporate in his model the fear of punishment as a motive for compliance or non-compliance. However, fear is absent from the adaptive contractarian model itself. It is only relevant in relation to those actors who cannot fulfill their obligations without the threat of sanctions. In other words, the role of the state’s coercive apparatus is to reassure adaptive contractarians that other citizens will fulfill their obligations. State coercion has no direct role in motivating adaptive contractarians to comply. Therefore, although he says that he wants to integrate a variety of motivations in a single model, Scholz continues to divide the population of recipients into sub-populations with distinct logics. On several occasions, he even reproduces one-dimensional categories such as “honest” and “dishonest” taxpayers. [102]

49Third, despite the fact that in Scholz’s analysis adaptive contractarians constitute the vast majority of the population in a democratic state, it is clear that some of their qualities and missions betray the normative ideal that governed the development of his model. [103] The adaptive contractarian is attentive to the production of public goods. He also assesses state institutions’ ability to solve the problem of collective action that is inherent to the production of public goods. [104] The adaptive contractarian is even more responsive to changes in procedural justice. [105] He is a careful monitor of state practices and he navigates his relationship with public institutions. [106] The adaptive contractarian holds agencies accountable for their practices, suspending his compliance in case of dissatisfaction, an action that those agencies can in turn anticipate. [107]

50For Scholz, it is essential that adaptive contractarians be able to adequately react to any deviations of state institutions without causing the whole system to collapse. [108] Therefore, he conceives of adaptive contractarians as “active citizens”, [109] in a perspective which resembles Arendt’s arguments about power and civil disobedience. [110] Scholz dovetails with Arendt or Coleman on the idea that although a target population’s situation is more factual than contractual, its compliance can still be called “consent” to the extent that the population is allowed to disagree. Disagreement is the indicator of a free society (Arendt speaks of “dissent” and Coleman of “divesting authority”). [111] Therefore, Scholz has a clear normative goal. It is to make recipients’ ability to disagree with and to resist public action, “a second line of defense, after elections, to minimize the problem of state exploitation and to increase wealth-enhancing policies”. [112] By taking this stance, Scholz usefully abandons a heroic theory of rationality only to propose an equally heroic theory of citizenship. His “adaptive contractarians” are of critical importance for the existence and balance of the entire system. Scholz does more than simply analyze the power of rulers over the ruled; he also establishes the principles that must limit that power. But in doing so, he gives up on analyzing rulers’ power when it becomes detached from the goals initially attributed to it (democracy, individual rights, public goods, etc.). Yet we cannot ignore this aspect of rule. As Bertrand de Jouvenel correctly noted,


“It is not true that Power vanishes when it forswears its rightful begetter and acts in breach of the office which has been assigned to it. It continues as before to command and to be obeyed: without that, there is no Power – with it, no other attribute is needed for it to be.” [113]

52In sum, the work of theorization that Scholz has undertaken is interesting and coherent. But it is more of a normative theory than a scientific theory capable of realistically explaining observable behavior among the recipients of public action.

Motivation crowding theory (Frey)

53A third psycho-economic theory was proposed by Bruno S. Frey thirteen years ago. [114] An economist, Frey developed and presented a theory of individual choice that is explicitly an extension and a critique of the basic utilitarian model used in economics. Like Scholz, in his later writings Frey suggested analyzing compliance with public policies within the framework of a contractualist theory of state-recipient relations.

54Frey borrows from experimental psychology the idea that there are two main types of motivation: extrinsic motivation, which can be identified with anything external to the actor; and intrinsic motivation, which on the contrary is already there and does not depend on an external intervention to make the actor do something. In particular, extrinsic motivation corresponds to benefits that are received and costs that are imposed. Frey claims that economics has totally ignored intrinsic motivation because the discipline is primarily concerned with the economic dimension of individual choices. However, intrinsic motivation is not just an extra incentive, in addition to extrinsic motivation. The two interact. (Otherwise, the effect of intrinsic motivation could be easily integrated into classic utilitarian theory.) Many psychologists (in particular Deci) have shown in experiments that the development of an extrinsic motivation for a social activity can actually eliminate the intrinsic motivation. The example usually given is that of a son mowing the lawn at the request of his father, without compensation. He mows the lawn because this activity gives him pleasure – either by itself or because it earns him recognition from his father – or out of a sense of duty, obedience to authority, or a desire to be useful. For Frey, these may all correspond to an intrinsic motivation. [115] Then one day the father decides to pay his son to mow the lawn. He gives him compensation in the form of pocket money. Based on the result of experiments, psychologists say that from this moment on, the son will probably never mow the lawn again without compensation. Money has crowded out intrinsic motivation.

55Frey generalizes this result by showing that outside intervention has two complementary effects on individual behavior. One is the price effect. This is the classic mechanism by which actors adjust their behavior in function of the costs and benefits generated by the various alternatives presented to them. The price effect is entirely compatible with standard utilitarian theory. Frey’s addition is to theorize a second effect, called “crowding out”, which operates in exactly the opposite direction as the price effect. Crowding out corresponds to the substitution of an extrinsic motivation for an intrinsic one. [116] Even as one effect encourages actors to adopt a certain behavior, the second one can discourage them from doing so. By paying an actor to perform a particular task, one activates the price effect, which makes the expected behavior more likely. But one also activates the crowding-out effect, which makes it less likely. Thus the payment reinforces one kind of motivation (extrinsic) and weakens another (intrinsic). As such, predicting behavior becomes a challenge of determining the relative strength of one effect compared to the other.

Figure 3

A schematic representation of Frey’s model

Figure 3

A schematic representation of Frey’s model

56In this form, the model is clear and parsimonious. It assumes that intrinsic motivation and extrinsic motivation can produce the expected behavior when those motivations are strong enough, either singly or taken together. However, the theory does not say what resistance those motivations must overcome. It also does not specify what constitutes the “threshold” between non-compliance and compliance. In a case where intrinsic motivation is strong and extrinsic motivation is weak, outside intervention may have negative effects on actors’ performance. That would be the case if it significantly reduces intrinsic motivation (if the crowding-out effect is strong) and if it does not increase extrinsic motivation enough to compensate that reduction (if the price effect is insufficient). In such a situation, the combined motivation for producing the expected behavior will be weaker after the external intervention than before it. In a nutshell, Frey’s main message is: intrinsic motivation is a powerful impulse for compliant behavior that outside intervention can significantly weaken or destroy. Due to the existence of this other motivation – and via the crowding-out effect – an external regulatory intervention may have the opposite effect of what had been expected. (That is true whether it is a public regulation or private regulation, as in the case of an employer-employee relationship.) It can produce fewer of the expected behaviors than no outside intervention at all.

57Frey is aware of the fact that the complexity of his subject makes a deterministic analysis impossible. [117] Therefore, he makes an effort to specify the conditions in which the mechanisms will produce the predicted effect. He uses the available empirical literature in a variety of different disciplines, as well as a few smaller empirical studies that he has conducted himself or in which he has participated.

58Frey posits that the crowding-out effect becomes stronger if:

  • the regulator and the regulatee are close to one another and their interactions are embedded in a relationship;
  • the activity aimed for is interesting for the regulatee;
  • the regulatee participates in the development of regulations;
These first three conditions are correlated with a strong intrinsic motivation. They are “producers” of such a motivation, as it were.
  • the regulator does not adapt his intervention based on the merit of each regulated individual;
  • external interventions privilege prescriptive regulations rather than rewards (Frey’s model assumes that the crowding-out effect generated by a prescriptive regulation will always be stronger than the crowding-out effect generated by a reward);
  • rewards are contingent on the regulated individual’s observance of the behavior expected by the regulator;
  • the regulation is “tough” (i.e., it includes credible threats of punishment for non-compliance);
These conditions directly reflect the style by which the regulator implements regulations.
  • external intervention does not imply an acknowledgement of the agent’s intrinsic motivation. [118]
When the terms are inversed, this last condition creates a crowding-in effect. Crowding-in is the production or reinforcement of intrinsic motivation by an external intervention. It usually works when outside interference implicitly or explicitly supports the recipient instead of controlling him. The crowding-in effect is logically opposed to the crowding-out effect; it reinforces intrinsic motivation whereas the crowding-out effect weakens it. These two effects are not cumulative, but rather alternative. Only one or the other is at work. (By contrast, each one can work in tandem with the price effect. See Figure 3.)

59By integrating all of these conditions in his theory, Frey encompasses a very broad literature – ranging from experimental psychology to the economics of regulation and public policy implementation. With the help of the theoretical framework as it has been defined here, he also intends to explain the impact of external interventions on motivations and behavior in a very diverse set of fields. These include “civic” behavior (voting, tax declarations and payments), environmental policies, the choice of sites for problematic facilities (such as nuclear power plants, landfills, hazardous materials landfills, prisons, and psychiatric hospitals) and the NIMBY (not in my backyard) problem, as well as social and organizational policies (crime fighting, blood donations, etc.), and employee motivation. For Frey, the crowding-out effect is crucial because it can spread to other kinds of activities or to other actors. [119] Therefore, an actor whose intrinsic motivation was weakened or crowded out by a monetary incentive in a given domain might also condition his behavior in other areas if extrinsic motivations (other incentives) were present. He could equally inspire his closest entourage to displace their motivations in the same way. [120]

60In a more recent publication, Frey and Feld have proposed an analytical framework that is specifically tailored to the question of compliance in the framework of fiscal policies. [121] They begin with the assumption that public authorities and citizens exchange taxes for public goods in the framework of a “psychological contract”. Feld and Frey define this psychological contract as a concept that integrates both of the traditional notions of deterrence and the sense of duty. This contract is based on positive and negative incentives, but also on emotional ties and loyalties. These emotional ties are the key to a “tax morale” – a moral code ordering each individual to meet their fiscal obligations. This intrinsic motivation interacts with taxpayers’ other (extrinsic) motivations – the very ones which the incentives referred to above are meant to reinforce. The different motives’ interactions follow the mechanisms theorized by Frey and described above. In addition, taxpayers’ compliance with their fiscal obligations is contingent on the state’s performance in terms of distributive justice (the production of public goods), procedural justice, and “interactional” justice. (This last term implies some form of equality in the relationship between the parties to the contract, or in any case the exclusion of any hierarchical relationship. It also refers to the personalization of interactions between the regulator and the regulatee.) As such, the main influence on the tax morale of taxpayers is their degree of satisfaction with what they receive from public authorities.

61With these relatively simple additions to their model, Feld and Frey seek to integrate a set of empirical findings accumulated over the past decade, particularly in the area of tax policy. On the essential points, however, their model remains the same. The components of the “psychological contract” are in a sense integrated into the relationship between public intervention and intrinsic motivation (see Figure 3).

62Frey’s basic model is very parsimonious. Progressive additions make it more complex, yet it remains practicable. However, we can offer a number of critiques.

63First, one might criticize Frey for excessive optimism. There is no explicit theory of the production of intrinsic motivation in his writing. Nonetheless, he seems convinced that intrinsic motivation can be “produced”, not only by socialization (although he does not use this term), but even more so by public intervention, political institutions, and discussion. [122] In his writing, crowding-in effects seem as fast and easy to handle as crowding-out effects. However, in reality, authority and trust – which in terms of Frey’s theory are both based on intrinsic motivation – are extremely difficult and time-consuming to recreate if they are lost or betrayed. As Nooteboom says: “Trust comes on foot and leaves on horseback.” [123] That does not mean that crowding-in effects are improbable, but they undoubtedly are unlikely for certain types of intrinsic motivation and under certain conditions. The model needs more explanation on this point.

64A second critique is that while Frey assumes that intrinsic motivation always produces compliance, there may also be several sources of intrinsic motivation that push towards other outcomes. Some local norms maintained and sanctioned within social groups can obstruct compliance because they demand behavior that is not in accordance with what the state regulator requests. [124] According to Frey’s definition, these local norms also belong in the category of intrinsic motivation. If we follow Frey’s recommendations, should we not then intervene to remove such motivations in order to produce compliance? But in that case, why remove them and not other intrinsic motivations – the same ones that Frey urges his readers to safeguard? Clearly, this is the point where theory slips into the realm of normativity. We could challenge Frey to separate “good” intrinsic motivations from “bad” ones.

65We can also call into question the realism of a model that is rooted in the notion of a “psychological contract”. Feld and Frey assume non-compliance to be a sign that recipients disapprove of the conduct of the other contracting party (namely, public authorities). Clearly, this model does not work in non-democratic systems. The authors write: “Most obviously, it will be difficult to think of a psychological tax contract in autocratic regimes.” [125] But analogous limitations can also be found in democratic countries. As the authors themselves note, all public policies provide a system of penalties for non-compliance. That is particularly true for the prescriptive fiscal policies they study. As such, if the taxpayer disapproves of the conduct of public authorities and has seriously considered tax evasion, won’t deterrence and the risk of punishment become pertinent factors in explaining the behavior of individuals/taxpayers? In that case, we would be looking at a form of compliance or non-compliance that is not only, or even primarily, a sign of (dis)approval. So is Feld and Frey’s conceptualization appropriate to the imperfect democracies in which we live, where the citizen is, more or less, in subjection to the state? In short, like Scholz, Frey and Feld ignore the question of compliance without compensation – simple obedience to authority. In fact, such obedience is inconsistent with the contractualist vision of a relationship between equals that they want to apply to the relationship between the state and citizens. [126] Their determination is clearly to make reality fit the model of the market. As Feld and Frey write:


“If you can purchase a product from two different suppliers, would you choose the one that is more friendly and respectful when treating customers? The answer would be yes, providing the price differential was not too high. In a similar fashion, the way the tax office treats taxpayers plays a role.” [127]

67Does such a situation – a choice without output constraints – really exist? Generally, a public good produced by the state has no equivalent alternative; it is not possible to opt out, unless one is willing and able to migrate to another country. [128] Here we can cite the example of Thoreau. In the United States of 1846, when someone did not pay their taxes because they disagreed with the use the government made of this money, they ended up in prison.

68Therefore, we can make the same critique of Frey’s model that Streeck and Thelen have made of studying compliance as a problem of collective action in a group of equals. [129] As they put it, this approach tends to obscure relations of authority, the issue of obligations, and the implementation of those obligations. [130]

69More generally, Frey sometimes leaves the reader wanting more empirical results to support his theory. That is not the case for the effects of monetary payments, for which he offers a certain number of convincing results, most of them experimental. He also draws on several other empirical studies that provide illustrations of the crowding-out process, which his model accounts for very well. [131] However, as soon as he tackles outside interventions other than monetary incentives or disincentives, his argument weakens. Frey tends to see a confirmation of his theory in purely institutional situations. But such situations can have other explanations – especially since Frey’s theory says almost nothing about aggregation effects. For example, the author assumes that, in the case of external intervention, an individual’s degree of participation in decision-making is inversely correlated to the strength of the crowding-out effect. However, to defend this hypothesis, he only refers to institutional comparisons between different forms of regulation, particularly in organizations of production. More precisely, he cites the everyday modes of regulation that are characteristic of Japanese companies. These companies are highly decentralized and lack explicit hierarchical control. Frey contrasts them to the decision-making procedures and the explicit, hierarchical control that are common in American businesses. [132] The problem with this comparison is that it does not confirm the effect which the theory is meant to demonstrate. It merely describes contrasting forms of organization. This says nothing about the veracity of the theory, unless we assume that organizations anticipate the effects that Frey has theorized and become institutionalized in just the right way to balance crowding-out effects and price effects. [133]

70Frey is least convincing when he tries to support his theory, which is micro-sociological, with macro-sociological examples. He even sees evidence for crowding-out theory in interest rates being generally lower on government bonds to finance state loans in democratic states! [134] Frey avoids alternative hypotheses that could explain this result. Likewise, Feld and Frey even claim that the equivocal results of numerous empirical studies on compliance support their theory. [135] Their reasoning is as follows. Their theory is not deterministic, since it combines two very general mechanisms that are in a dynamic relationship. As such, it can produce a variety of predictions. Indeed, the empirical findings of studies on compliance are quite equivocal. This, they conclude, is simply one more element suggesting that their theory is correct. However, this kind of argument can support any non-deterministic theory of compliance behavior, not only theirs.

71By failing to further specify his model (which would require making it more complex), Frey is largely unable to make it anything more than a logical tool for demonstrating the possibility of counter-intuitive situations. In this his model resembles game theory or multi-agent simulations, [136] which can formalize dynamics of interactions (especially the results of these dynamics) that are similar to those observed in reality.

72* * *

73This review has shown that there currently exists intense theoretical activity on the question of compliance. Compliance is of direct interest to political science, in particular public policy analysis, but so far political scientists have largely ignored it.

74Faced with their analytic frameworks’ limited ability to account for a complex object, the current contributors to this field of research have drawn on a longstanding practice of interdisciplinarity to borrow from a wide range of concepts. They use older theories such as neo-institutionalism. They also offer new models that mix concepts and results from disciplines as varied as economics and psychology.

75Obviously, such ambitious efforts have limitations. The work discussed here at times reveals the authors’ normative preconceptions. In addition, some of these models contain sweeping concepts which are defined so broadly that they can encompass a number of factors and mechanisms, sometimes in contradiction with one another. One example of this problem is the “motivational postures” of Braithwaite et al. More generally, such conceptual overreach is often the case in the theorization of objects that result from complex causalities. As we have seen, the construction of broad notions is not the most convincing strategy. A more promising approach can be found in studies that account for the complexity of compliance behavior by making their theories of action themselves more complex. The best work distinguishes variables and mechanisms instead of mixing them up in expansive categories. Finally, the studies discussed above announce a vast empirical program. That is especially the case for Scholz and Frey’s theories. If they cannot account for all the existing literature, they nonetheless manage to incorporate some of its main findings.

76In sum, although the field of compliance studies has produced few syntheses that draw together existing empirical findings, it shows an unusually vigorous production of theory. Many of the strategies reviewed here are undoubtedly doomed to failure. However, their clear intention to build on the insights of older theoretical frameworks while moving beyond those theories’ limitations suggests that better empirical results will soon follow. Political scientists have every reason to participate in this debate, which directly concerns them. [137]


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    Helen Ingram and Anne Schneider, “The choice of target populations”, Administration & Society, 23(3), 1991, 333-56.
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    Compliance can be usefully distinguished from conformity. Compliance refers to acquiescence to expectations that can take a range of forms: rules, standards, proposals, entreaties, orders, suggestions, etc. By contrast, conformity refers to identification with a precise form of expectation: a standard, rule, law, or social norm. As such, conformity can be defined as “compliance with standards, rules, or laws”. Moreover, the notion of conformity frequently evokes the idea of shared social norms, even when the influence of these norms is only one element among many in a target population’s response to public demands. Finally, the concept of compliance should not be confused with the concept of obedience. Compliance can include consent as well as obedience. Consent and obedience are two different things, as noted by Hannah Arendt, Responsibility and Judgment (New York: Schocken, 2003), 42-3. See also G. Pyrcz, “Obedience, support, and authority: the limits of political obligation in a democracy”, Canadian Journal of Political Science, XIV(2), 1981, 337-52.
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    See Frank Baumgartner and Bryan Jones, Agendas and Instability in American Politics (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993); Bruno Jobert and Pierre Muller, L’État en action. Politiques publiques et corporatismes (Paris: Presses universitaires de France, 1987); John W. Kingdon, Agendas, Alternatives and Public Policies (New York: Longman, 1984); Giandomenico Majone, Evidence, Argument, & Persuasion in the Policy Process (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1989); Anne Schneider and Helen Ingram, Policy Design for Democracy, Studies in Government and Public Policy (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1997).
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    Wayne Parsons, Public Policy (Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, 1995), 457 and following.
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    Christopher Hood, The Tools of Government (Chatham: Chatham House, 1986); Dietmar Braun and Olivier Giraud, “Politikinstrumente im Kontext von Staat, Markt und Governance”, in Klaus Schubert and Nils Bandelow (eds), Lehrbuch der Politikfeldanalyse 2.0., (Munich: Oldenburg Verlag, 2009); Pearl Eliadis, Margaret M. Hill, and Michael Howlett, “Introduction”, in Pearl Eliadis, Margaret M. Hill, and Michael Howlett (eds), Designing Government. From Instruments to Governance (Montreal & Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2005); Pierre Lascoumes and Patrick Le Galès, Gouverner par les instruments (Paris: Presses de Sciences Po, 2004); Lester M. Salamon and Odus V. Elliott, The Tools of Government. A Guide to the New Governance (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002).
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    Eliadis, Hill, and Howlett, “Introduction”.
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    Joe Soss has begun an inquiry into the effects of policy design on target populations: “To gauge its overall effects, we must think more broadly about how policy designs affect status, belief, and action in the citizenry.” He analyzes policy design as a cause, and no longer as an effect: “policy designs construct contexts of transaction and subject positions for citizens who enter the welfare system”. (Joe Soss, “Making clients and citizens: welfare policy as a source of status, belief, and action”, in Anne L. Schneider and Helen M. Ingram (eds), Deserving and Entitled: Social Constructions and Public Policy [New York: State University of New York Press, 2005], 292 and 302, respectively.) Soss also studies policy design at the micro-sociological level – rather than just the macro-sociological level as previously done by Schneider and Ingram, Policy Design for Democracy.
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    “A practice and a way of thinking about rule”, as noted in Mitchell Dean, Governmentality (London: Sage, 1999), 78.
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    In particular the work of Gibbs, Tittle, and Jensen, as well as that of Grasmick and Green, and Silberman, Meier, and Johnson. See especially Harold G. Grasmick and Donald E. Green, “Legal punishment, social disapproval and internalization as inhibitors of illegal behavior”, The Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, 71(3), 1980, 325-35.
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    Gary S. Becker, “Crime and punishment: an economic approach”, Journal of Political Economy, 76, March-April 1968, 169-217; Gary S. Becker and George J. Stigler, “Law enforcement, malfeasance, and compensation of enforcers”, The Journal of Legal Studies, 3(1), 1974, 1-18.
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    Becker and Stigler, “Law enforcement, malfeasance, and compensation of enforcers”.
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    Decision theory nonetheless offered more nuanced proposals, which its critics sometimes forget. Very early on, it included the idea that a number of motives influence individual behavior. In a classic study on the effects of regulations on road safety, Peltzman identified a counter-intuitive effect of public regulation, which he called the “offsetting effect”. He assumed that the target populations of road-safety rules offset the constraint of safety belts by driving more dangerously. That allowed them to still find the stimulation in driving that safety belts had stymied. (Peltzman, “The effects of automobile safety regulation”.)
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    George Tsebelis, “The effects of fines on regulated industries”, Journal of Theoretical Politics, 3(1), 1991, 81-101; George Tsebelis, “Penalty and crime: further theoretical considerations and empirical evidence”, Journal of Theoretical Politics, 5(3), 1993, 349-74.
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    Ian Ayres and John Braithwaite, Responsive Regulation (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992); John T. Scholz, “Enforcement policy and corporate misconduct: the changing perspective of deterrence theory”, Law and Contemporary Problems, 60(3), 1997, 253-68.
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    Ian Ayres and John Braithwaite, “Tripartism: regulatory capture and empowerment”, Law and Social Inquiry, 16(3), 1991, 435-96.
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    Tsebelis, “The effects of fines on regulated industries”.
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    Valerie Braithwaite et al., “Regulatory styles, motivational postures and nursing home compliance”, Law & Policy, 16(4), 1994, 363-94.
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    James G. March and Johan P. Olsen, Rediscovering Institutions: the Organizational Basis of Politics (New York: Free Press, 1989); James G. March and Johan P. Olsen, “The logic of appropriateness”, in Michael Moran, Martin Rein, and Robert E. Goodin (eds), The Oxford Handbook of Public Policy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006).
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    Ayres and Braithwaite, Responsive regulation.
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    Ayres and Braithwaite, Responsive regulation.
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    Kagan and Scholz, “The criminology of the corporation and regulatory enforcement strategies”.
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    Eugene Bardach and Robert A. Kagan, Going by the Book. The Problem of Regulatory Unreasonableness, 2nd edn (New Brunswick & London: Transaction Publishers, 2002).
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    Hood, The Tools of Government.
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    Kathleen M. McGraw and John T. Scholz, “Appeals to civic virtue versus attention to self-interest: effects on tax compliance”, Law & Society Review, 25(3), 1991, 471-98.
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    See especially: Scholz, “Enforcement policy and corporate misconduct: the changing perspective of deterrence theory”; James Alm, Isabel Sanchez, and Ana De Juan, “Economic and noneconomic factors in tax compliance”, Kyklos, 48(1), 1995, 3-18; Sebastian Bamberg and Peter Schmidt, “Regulating transport: behavioural changes in the field”, Journal of Consumer Policy, 22, 1999, 479-509, and especially p. 505; Ray Fisman and Edward Miguel, “Corruption, norms and legal enforcement: evidence from diplomatic parking tickets”, Journal of Political Economy, 115(6), 2007, 1020-48; Stig S. Gezelius, “Do norms count? State regulation and compliance in a Norwegian fishing community”, Acta Sociologica, 45(4), 2002, 305-14; Stig S. Gezelius, Regulation and Compliance in the Atlantic Fisheries (Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 2003); Fiona Haines and David Gurney, “The shadows of the law: contemporary approaches to regulation and the problem of regulatory conflict”, Law & Policy, 25(4), 2003, 353-80; Siegwart Lindenberg and Linda Steg, “Normative, gain and hedonic goal frames guiding environmental behavior”, Journal of Social Issues, 63(1), 2007, 117-37; Peter J. May, “Regulation and compliance motivations: examining different approaches”, Public Administration Review, 65(1), 2005, 31-44; Peter J. May, “Compliance motivations: perspectives of farmers, homebuilders, and marine facilities”, Law & Policy, 27(2), 2005, 317-47; Michael Wenzel, “Motivation or rationalisation? Causal relations between ethics, norms and tax compliance”, Journal of Economic Psychology, 26, 2005, 491-508. There is a similar trend in the economic theory of the 1990s: John G. Cullis and Alan Lewis, “Why people pay taxes: from a conventional economic model to a model of social convention”, Journal of Economic Psychology, 18(2-3), 1997, 305-21, in particular 312.
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    For example, John Braithwaite and Toni Makkai, “Testing an expected utility model of corporate deterrence”, Law & Society Review 25(1), 1991, 7-40; Braithwaite et al., “Regulatory styles, motivational postures and nursing home compliance.”
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    Ronald B. Mitchell, Intentional Oil Pollution at Sea (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1994).
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    Lars P. Feld and Bruno S. Frey, “Tax compliance as the result of a psychological tax contract: the role of incentives and responsive regulation”, Law & Policy 29(1), 2007, 102-20; Paternoster and Simpson, “Sanction threats and appeals to morality: testing a rational choice model of corporate crime”; John T. Scholz, “Contractual compliance and the federal income tax system”, Journal of Law & Policy, 13, 2003, 139-203.
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    Fiona Haines, Corporate Regulation. BeyondPunish or Persuade” (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1997). In the same vein: Bamberg and Schmidt, “Regulating transport: behavioural changes in the field”; Paul C. Stern, “Information, incentives, and proenvironmental consumer behavior”, Journal of Consumer Policy, 22(4), 1999, 461-78.
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    May, “Regulation and compliance motivations: examining different approaches”; May, “Compliance motivations: perspectives of farmers, homebuilders, and marine facilities”.
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    Douglass C. North, Institutions, Institutional Change and Economic Performance (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990); Paul J. DiMaggio and Walter W. Powell (eds), The New Institutionalism in Organizational Analysis (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1991); March and Olsen, Rediscovering Institutions: the Organizational Basis of Politics.
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    John R. Sutton, “Rethinking social control”, Law & Social Inquiry, 21(4), 1996, 943-58; Julia Black, “New institutionalism and naturalism in socio-legal analysis: institutionalist approaches to regulatory decision making”, Law & Policy, 19(1), 1997, 51-93; Mark C. Suchman and Lauren B. Edelman, “Legal rational myths: the new institutionalism and the law and society tradition”, Law & Social Inquiry, 21(4), 1996, 903-41.
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    Black, “New institutionalism and naturalism in socio-legal analysis: institutionalist approaches to regulatory decision making”.
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    North, Institutions, Institutional Change and Economic Performance.
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    Black, “New institutionalism and naturalism in socio-legal analysis: institutionalist approaches to regulatory decision making”, 67.
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    “New institutionalism and naturalism in socio-legal analysis: institutionalist approaches to regulatory decision making”, 68.
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    Roger Friedland and Robert R. Alford, “Bringing society back in: symbols, practices, and institutional contradictions”, in Paul J. DiMaggio and Walter W. Powell (eds), The New Institutionalism in Organizational Analysis (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1991), 232-66.
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    Black, “New institutionalism and naturalism in socio-legal analysis: institutionalist approaches to regulatory decision making”, 70.
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    Paul J. DiMaggio and Walter W. Powell, “The iron cage revisited: institutional isomorphism and collective rationality in organizational fields”, American Sociological Review, 48(2), 1983, 147-60.
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    Suchman and Edelman, “Legal rational myths: the new institutionalism and the law and society tradition”.
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    John M. Meyer and Brian Rowan, “Institutionalized organizations: formal structure as myth and ceremony”, in Paul J. DiMaggio and Walter W. Powell (eds), The New Institutionalism in Organizational Analysis (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1991), 41-62.
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    Andrew Hopkins, “Compliance with what? The fundamental regulatory question”, British Journal of Criminology, 34(4), 1994, 431-43.
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    See also: Nils Brunsson, The Organization of Hypocrisy (Copenhagen: Copenhagen Business School Press, 2002).
  • [49]
    Black, “New institutionalism and naturalism in socio-legal analysis: institutionalist approaches to regulatory decision making”, 82.
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    This is particularly true with regard to sanctions, which play a central role in the literature on compliance. As DiMaggio and Powell write, theorizing the relationship between sanctions and institutions is inconsistent within the neo-institutionalist approach. Paul J. DiMaggio and Walter W. Powell, “Introduction”, in Paul J. DiMaggio and Walter W. Powell (eds), The New Institutionalism in Organizational Analysis (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1991), 37, note 23.
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    Black, “New institutionalism and naturalism in socio-legal analysis: institutionalist approaches to regulatory decision making”, 81.
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    Black, “New institutionalism and naturalism in socio-legal analysis: institutionalist approaches to regulatory decision making”, 81-2; Suchman and Edelman, “Legal rational myths: the new institutionalism and the law and society tradition”, 905. A good illustration is the article by Jepperson and Meyer in the volume edited by Powell and DiMaggio.
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    Suchman and Edelman, “Legal rational myths: the new institutionalism and the law and society tradition”, 907-8; Haines and Gurney, “The shadows of the law: contemporary approaches to regulation and the problem of regulatory conflict”.
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    Vibeke Lehmann Nielsen, “Dialogue, differential treatment and public regulation: why the very character of social interaction is important”, paper given at the 2003 Annual Meeting of the Law and Society Association (LSA) (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA: 2003); Christine Parker, “How to win hearts and minds: corporate compliance policies for sexual harassment”, Law & Policy, 21(1), 1999, 21-48; Christine Parker, The Open Corporation: Effective Self-regulation and Democracy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002).
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    Edward J. Bird, “Can welfare policy make use of social norms?” Rationality and Society, 11(3), 1999, 343-65; Gezelius, “Do norms count? state regulation and compliance in a Norwegian fishing community”; Gezelius, Regulation and Compliance in the Atlantic Fisheries; Christine Horne, “The enforcement of norms: group cohesion and meta-norms”, Social Psychology Quarterly, 64(3), 2001, 253-66; Christine Horne, “Collective benefits, exchange interests, and norm enforcement”, Social Forces, 82(3), 2004, 1037-62; Christine Horne, “Explaining norm enforcement”, Rationality and Society, 19(2), 2007, 139-70.
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    Lawrence Lessig, “The regulation of social meaning”, The University of Chicago Law Review, 62(3), 1995, 943-1045; Michael P. Vandenbergh, “Beyond elegance: a testable typology of social norms in corporate environmental compliance”, Stanford Environmental Law Journal, 22, 2003, 55-144.
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    James S. Coleman, Foundations of Social Theory (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1990).
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    Mark Granovetter, “Economic action and social structure: the problem of embeddedness”, American Journal of Sociology, 91(3), 1985, 481-510.
  • [59]
    Gezelius, “Do norms count? state regulation and compliance in a Norwegian fishing community”; Lessig, “The regulation of social meaning”; Michael Wenzel, “The social side of sanctions: personal and social norms as moderators of deterrence”, Law and Human Behavior, 28(5), 2004, 547-67; Wenzel, “Motivation or rationalisation? Causal relations between ethics, norms and tax compliance”; Michael Wenzel, “The multiplicity of taxpayer identities and their implications for tax ethics”, Law & Policy, 29(1), 2007, 31-50.
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    I have proposed a theory of compliance which can also be associated with this third approach: Julien Étienne, “Compliance theory: a goal framing approach”, Law & Policy, 33(3), 2011.
  • [61]
    Braithwaite et al., “Regulatory styles, motivational postures and nursing home compliance”; Valerie Braithwaite, Kristina Murphy, and Monika Reinhart, “Taxation threat, motivational postures, and responsive regulation”, Law & Policy, 29(1), 2007, 137-58.
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    Sharon S. Brehm and Jack W. Brehm, Psychological Reactance: a Theory of Freedom and Control (New York: Academic Press, 1981).
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    Braithwaite, Murphy, and Reinhart, “Taxation threat, motivational postures, and responsive regulation”.
  • [64]
    Braithwaite, Murphy, and Reinhart, “Taxation threat, motivational postures, and responsive regulation”, 138.
  • [65]
    “Motivational postures…summarize many forces that individuals perceive in their environment, internal and external, some created by the specific actions of a regulatory authority, others existing independently of that authority. Among the relevant variables are identities…notions of duty and of fear…rationalization…ideological preferences, and feelings of trust.” Braithwaite, Murphy, and Reinhart, “Taxation threat, motivational postures, and responsive regulation”, 139-40.
  • [66]
    Tom R. Tyler, Why People Obey the Law (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2006).
  • [67]
    Uwe Schimank, Handlen und Strukturen. Einführung in die akteurtheorische Soziologie (Weinheim: Juventa, 2000). The least explored of these paradigms is emotional man, who is motivated above all by the pursuit of individual well-being. Jon Elster, Nuts and Bolts for the Social Sciences (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989), 61-70; Jon Elster, “Emotions and economic theory”, Journal of Economic Literature, XXXVI(1), 1998, 47-74. However, emotions are the subject of increasing attention, particularly in economics: Astrid Hopfensitz and Ernesto Reuben, “The importance of emotions for the effectiveness of social punishment”, The Economic Journal, 119(540), 2009, 1534-59. Homo sociologicus, motivated by the choice of appropriate behavior, recalls the logic of appropriateness and the logic of normed action of classical sociologists. For his part, homo œconomicus is associated with the most classic variants of sociological and economic theory, which are grounded on the assumption of a utilitarian individual maximizing his personal gains. This paradigm forms the basis of rational choice theory.
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    Braithwaite, Murphy, and Reinhart, “Taxation threat, motivational postures, and responsive regulation”, 140-1.
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    Braithwaite, Murphy, and Reinhart, “Taxation threat, motivational postures, and responsive regulation”, 140-1.
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    Braithwaite, Murphy, and Reinhart, “Taxation threat, motivational postures, and responsive regulation”, 153.
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    Braithwaite, Murphy, and Reinhart, “Taxation threat, motivational postures, and responsive regulation”, 151.
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    Braithwaite, Murphy, and Reinhart, “Taxation threat, motivational postures, and responsive regulation”, 151.
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    Braithwaite, Murphy, and Reinhart, “Taxation threat, motivational postures, and responsive regulation”, 152.
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    Braithwaite, Murphy, and Reinhart, “Taxation threat, motivational postures, and responsive regulation”, 152-3.
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    Braithwaite, Murphy, and Reinhart, “Taxation threat, motivational postures, and responsive regulation”, 140-1.
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    Mitchell, Intentional Oil Pollution at Sea.
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    Gezelius, “Do norms count? State regulation and compliance in a Norwegian fishing community”.
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    Gezelius, Regulation and Compliance in the Atlantic Fisheries.
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    Anne Schneider, Helen Ingram, “Behavioral assumptions of policy tools”, Journal of Politics, 52(2), 1990, 510-29.
  • [80]
    Anne L. Schneider and Helen M. Ingram (eds), Deserving and Entitled: Social Constructions and Public Policy (New York: State University of New York Press, 2005); Soss, “Making clients and citizens: welfare policy as a source of status, belief, and action”; Dean, Governmentality, 165.
  • [81]
    Christian Steglich, “The framing of decision situations. Automatic goal selection and rational goal pursuit” (ICS Dissertation Series, University of Groningen, NL, 2003).
  • [82]
    William A. Edmundson, “Is law coercive?” Legal Theory, 1, 1995, 81-111.Online
  • [83]
    Scholz, “Cooperation, deterrence, and the ecology of regulatory enforcement”.
  • [84]
    Scholz, “Enforcement policy and corporate misconduct: the changing perspective of deterrence theory”.
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    Christine H. Roch, John T. Scholz, and Kathleen M. McGraw, “Social networks and citizen response to legal change”, American Journal of Political Science, 44(4), 2000, 777-91; John T. Scholz and Neil Pinney, “Duty, fear, and tax compliance: the heuristic basis of citizenship behavior”, American Journal of Political Science, 39(2), 1995, 490-512; John T. Scholz and Mark Lubell, “Adaptive political attitudes: duty, trust, and fear as monitors of tax policy”, American Journal of Political Science, 42(3), 1998, 903-20; John T. Scholz and Mark Lubell, “Trust and taxpaying: testing the heuristic approach to collective action”, American Journal of Political Science, 42(2), 1998, 398-417; John T. Scholz and Mark Lubell, “Cooperation, reciprocity, and the collective action heuristic”, American Journal of Political Science, 45, 2001, 160-78.
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    John T. Scholz, “Contractual compliance and the federal income tax system”, Journal of Law & Policy, 13, 2003, 139-203, 166. Scholz is nonetheless close to the latter approach and uses many of the arguments put forward by its major contributors (such as Levi, Ostrom, and Weingast).
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    See John T. Scholz and Wayne B. Gray, “Can government facilitate cooperation? An informational model of OSHA enforcement”, American Journal of Political Science, 41, 1997, 693-717.
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    In psychology, the term cognitive bias refers to the tendency to make faulty judgments. For example, underestimating or overestimating the probability of future events, interpreting new information in such a way as to enhance one’s personal beliefs, or according more importance to losses than to gains.
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    Heuristics are simple rules or strategies that help people solve problems and make choices, especially when they are facing complex issues or have incomplete or ambiguous information. They are often referred to as cognitive “shortcuts”.
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    Scholz, “Contractual compliance and the federal income tax system”, 140.
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    Scholz, “Contractual compliance and the federal income tax system”, 139.
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    Scholz and Pinney, “Duty, fear, and tax compliance: the heuristic basis of citizenship behavior”, 491.
  • [93]
    Scholz and Pinney, “Duty, fear, and tax compliance: the heuristic basis of citizenship behavior”, 509.
  • [94]
    Peter M. Blau, Exchange and Power in Social Life (London: Transaction Publishers, 1986).
  • [95]
    Scholz and Pinney, “Duty, fear, and tax compliance: the heuristic basis of citizenship behavior”, 509; Scholz, “Contractual compliance and the federal income tax system”, 172.
  • [96]
    “Particularly when the expected costs and benefits associated with distributional justice are too difficult to track, procedural justice provides…an additional contingency in deciding whether or not to fulfill related obligations.” Scholz, “Contractual compliance and the federal income tax system”, 177.
  • [97]
    Scholz, “Contractual compliance and the federal income tax system”, 178-9.
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    Scholz, “Contractual compliance and the federal income tax system”, 190.
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    Scholz, “Contractual compliance and the federal income tax system”, 192.
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    Scholz, “Contractual compliance and the federal income tax system”, 196.
  • [101]
    Scholz, “Contractual compliance and the federal income tax system”, 199.
  • [102]
    Scholz, “Contractual compliance and the federal income tax system”, 198.
  • [103]
    Scholz, “Contractual compliance and the federal income tax system”, 151. Margaret Levi shares this perspective: Margaret Levi, “Why we need a new theory of government”, Perspectives on Politics, 4(1), 2006, 5-19.
  • [104]
    This would imply that all actors perceive public action as an action on their behalf. However, Soss shows how target populations of social policy in the U.S. end up perceiving the agency that applies social policy in quite different terms: “They come to understand the agency’s capacities for action as an autonomous power over them, rather than as the power to act on their behalf.” Soss, “Making clients and citizens: welfare policy as a source of status, belief, and action”, 301.
  • [105]
    Scholz, “Contractual compliance and the federal income tax system”, 191.
  • [106]
    Scholz, “Contractual compliance and the federal income tax system”, 180.
  • [107]
    Scholz, “Contractual compliance and the federal income tax system”, 178.
  • [108]
    Scholz, “Contractual compliance and the federal income tax system”, 192.
  • [109]
    Dietmar Braun and Olivier Giraud, “Models of citizenship and social democratic policies”, in Giuliano Bonoli and Martin Powell (eds), Social Democratic Party Policies in Contemporary Europe (London: Routledge, 2004).
  • [110]
    Hannah Arendt, Du mensonge à la violence (Paris: Calmann-Lévy, 1972).
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    See James S. Coleman, “Authority systems”, Public Opinion Quarterly, 44(2), 1980, 147.
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    Scholz, “Contractual compliance and the federal income tax system”, 191.
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    Bertrand de Jouvenel, Power: the History of its Growth (London: Batchworth Press, 1952), 91.
  • [114]
    Bruno S. Frey, Not Just for the Money: an Economic Theory of Personal Motivation (Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, 1997).
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    Lindenberg notes that Frey pushes the notion of “intrinsic motivation” beyond the limits psychologists had intended for it. For psychologists, intrinsic motivation could not correspond to a sense of obligation. Siegwart Lindenberg, “Intrinsic motivation in a new light”, Kyklos, 54(2-3), 2001, 317-42, especially 319.
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    Frey, Not Just for the Money: an Economic Theory of Personal Motivation.
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    Frey, Not Just for the Money: an Economic Theory of Personal Motivation, 10.
  • [118]
    Cullis and Jones argue that such recognition can be produced by two main inputs: “ethical posturing” and “in-kind transfers”. Philip Jones and John Cullis, “Key parameters in policy design: the case of intrinsic motivation”, Journal of Social Policy, 32(4), 2003, 527-47, especially 531.Online
  • [119]
    A similar argument is made by Soss, “Making clients and citizens: welfare policy as a source of status, belief, and action”.
  • [120]
    Frey, Not Just for the Money: an Economic Theory of Personal Motivation, 36-7.
  • [121]
    Feld and Frey, “Tax compliance as the result of a psychological tax contract: the role of incentives and responsive regulation”.
  • [122]
    Frey, Not Just for the Money: an Economic Theory of Personal Motivation, 115.
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    Nooteboom, cited by Andrew Goldsmith, “Police reform and the problem of trust”, Theoretical Criminology, 9(4), 2005, 443-70, 445. More generally, see Paternoster et al., “Perceived risk and social control: do sanctions really deter?”; Neil Gunningham and Darren Sinclair, “Regulation and the role of trust: reflections from the mining industry”, Journal of Law and Society, 36(2), 2009, 167-94; Richard H. Pildes, “The destruction of social capital through law”, University of Pennsylvania Law Review, 144(5), 1996, 2055-77.Online
  • [124]
    Gezelius, “Do norms count? state regulation and compliance in a Norwegian fishing community”; Lessig, “The regulation of social meaning”.
  • [125]
    Feld and Frey, “Tax compliance as the result of a psychological tax contract: the role of incentives and responsive regulation”, 107.
  • [126]
    “If tax administrations instead treat taxpayers as inferiors in a hierarchical relationship, the psychological contract is violated and citizens have good reason not to stick to their part of the contract and evade taxes.” Feld and Frey, “Tax compliance as the result of a psychological tax contract: the role of incentives and responsive regulation”, 104.
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    Feld and Frey, “Tax compliance as the result of a psychological tax contract: the role of incentives and responsive regulation”, 104.
  • [128]
    Feld and Frey, “Tax compliance as the result of a psychological tax contract: the role of incentives and responsive regulation”, 107.
  • [129]
    Jon Elster, The Cement of Society (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989); Scholz and Lubell, “Cooperation, reciprocity, and the collective action heuristic”.
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    Wolfgang Streeck and Kathleen Thelen “Introduction: institutional change in advanced political economies”, in Wolfgang Streeck and Kathleen Thelen (eds), Beyond Continuity: Institutional Change in Advanced Political Economies, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005) 1-39, in particular p. 11.
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    In particular, Bruno S. Frey and Reto Jegen, “Motivation crowding theory”, Journal of Economic Surveys, 15(5), 2001, 589-611, 597-604.
  • [132]
    Masahiko Aoki, “Towards an economic model of the Japanese firm”, Journal of Economic Literature, 28(1), 1990, 1-27. Frey is apparently referring to page 13.
  • [133]
    Feld and Frey explicitly make this suggestion: Feld and Frey, “Tax compliance as the result of a psychological tax contract: the role of incentives and responsive regulation”, 105. Frey’s theory is more a theory of extended rationality than a theory of bounded rationality. (Frey, Not Just for the Money: an Economic Theory of Personal Motivation, 118-25.) In any case, it implies that regulators (the “principals”) can rationally determine the optimal level of intervention, according to the crowding-out effect and the spill-over effect. Since regulators are not subject to outside intervention, the model is of little interest for explaining their behavior; Frey therefore attributes a heroic rationality to them. (Frey, Not Just for the Money: an Economic Theory of Personal Motivation, 38.)
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    Frey, Not Just for the Money: an Economic Theory of Personal Motivation, 606.
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    Feld and Frey, “Tax compliance as the result of a psychological tax contract: the role of incentives and responsive regulation”, 108.
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    Jean-Pierre Dupuy, Aux origines des sciences cognitives (Paris: La Découverte, 1999).
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    I wish to thank Dimitra Angelaki, Vanessa Bernadou and Olivier Giraud for their careful review of earlier versions of this paper, their advice, and their comments. The errors and inaccuracies that remain are the sole responsibility of the author. I also wish to thank Matthew Wendeln for the English translation.


Though often overlooked by political scientists, the issue of regulatory compliance is the subject of a wide range of interdisciplinary literature, which is presented and discussed here. The empirical works available on the subject are copious and diverse, but wanting in a cumulative approach. The field lacks a consistent theoretical framework to allow for the multiple interacting factors that contribute to compliance. This article presents and discusses the main theoretical approaches that have been explored over the past ten years in attempts to provide such an integrated theory of compliance.

Julien Étienne
Julien Étienne is British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow at the Centre for Analysis of Risk and Regulation (CARR) of the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). He defended his thesis at the Université de Picardie-Jules Verne in Amiens in June 2009. Entitled “The impact of public policy on private behavior: a goal framing theory approach” (“L’impact de l’action publique sur les comportements privés: une approche de goal framing theory”), his dissertation provides a contribution to the theorization of compliance. Julien has also worked on the regulation of major industrial risks and on organizational reliability. In 2007 and 2008, he published on these topics in the Journal of Contingencies and Crisis Management and in Safety Science.
Translated from French by 
Matthew Wendeln
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