After 35 years of neoliberal policy, as scholars and citizens we are familiar with neoliberalism, yet we seldom consider its legal dimensions. In part, this is because when we characterize neoliberalism as a series of ideas and policies (as we often do) we do not address the legal rules and institutions in which they are embedded. By bringing to the forefront the relations between neoliberalism, law and regulation I wish to highlight the considerable influence – sometimes taken for granted – that neoliberalism has exercised over regulatory law. In doing so, I contend that neoliberalism has been a driving force behind some of the most important developments in contemporary legal and regulatory theory. At the same time, however, I also highlight ways that the nature and logic of the liberal legal form have allowed law to be easily coupled with neoliberal economic rationality through the concept of ‘law and economics’ that I argue has reframed regulatory law in the neoliberal period. Thus, while neoliberalism has changed regulatory law, so too have legal forms shaped the development and expansion of neoliberalism. This chapter charts the origins and evolution of the interrelation between neoliberal ideas, law and regulation. It addresses the origins of neoliberal ideas, how they were adapted into legal and regulatory discourses, and how they have changed over time as they travel across the globe. The second section offers a description of the origins and transformation of neoliberal ideas about law and regulation. The third section then explains the use of economic analysis in the framing and interpretation of legal rules, which has become a distinctive feature of contemporary neoliberal ideas about law and regulation. The next section then briefly addresses the global diffusion of neoliberal ideas and institutions. In particular, it deals with the diffusion of institutions and theories. The final
section offers some tentative conclusions about the future of neoliberal law and regulation.