This article sets the scene for a special issue of Law & Policy that brings together the themes of rights and regulation. The articles explore a number of settings where rapid changes in political commitments and economic systems, often stimulated by international developments, place pressures on rights regimes. The articles deploy a variety of methods to draw out differences in both focus and approach in the understanding of rights, when compared with regulation. This introductory article provides a more detailed analysis of these differences in approach, and is suggestive of ways in which they may complement each other. We argue that the articles collectively demonstrate the added valued in juxtaposing rights with regulation. They are suggestive not only of a richer understanding of the impact on rights of broad changes in regulatory frameworks, but more particularly argue for the importance of understanding how processes of institutionalization can underpin or undermine rights regimes, and that regulatory measures may form a key aspect of such institutionalization.