Conflicts in Administrative Law: Struggles, Games and Negotiations Between Political, Institutional and Economic Actors

Administrative law solves conflicts. But, at the same time, it’s a battlefield. Principles and values do exist. And judicial review plays an important role in crafting and enforcing them. Nonetheless, a significant part of administrative law is in the hands of multiple political, institutional and economic actors, who struggle, interact and bargain. Each of them acts as a rational agent, trying to maximize its welfare through the manipulation of administrative law.

Outcomes of this multipolar struggle and, subsequently, rules of administrative law differ from one legal order to another. But logics are common to different administrative law systems around the world. And some preliminary hypothesis about most successful strategies – like power to rule, coalition capacity, costs allocation – can be generalized or tested in different contexts.

Conflicts in administrative law, of course, are not a single battle war. Each move of one actor follows the moves of the others. This is why administrative law is a repeated interactions game. Each move is incremental and path-dependent. Legal devices and mechanisms set up in the previous round cannot be easily and fully dismantled. As a consequence, understanding administrative law in complex legal orders and societies requires a microanalysis approach: “Devil is in the details”.