This paper examines recent theoretical exchanges around urban politics that have taken place between U.S. and U.K. academics and policy makers. Urban regime theory is outlined, its development in the U.S. traced and its initial application in the U.K. considered. Using urban regime theory two problems are isolated and interrogated: first the difficulty in theoretical transfer, in this case from the U.S. to the U.K. and, second, the problems of empiricism and localism embedded in the way urban regime theory has been constructed. The realist work of Kevin Cox is incorporated into a critique of the current formulation of regime theory. In conclusion, the paper notes the benefits of constructing idealized typologies but advocates the further theorizing of regime theory, not around concrete examples but through those socially embedded processes that result in the observable typological outcomes. Copyright © 1996 Elsevier Science Ltd.