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Privatizing Water


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Table of Contents

Introduction: Privatization and the Urban Water Crisis Part I. Development, Urbanization, and the Governance of Thirst 1. Governance Failure: Reframing the Urban Water Supply Crisis 2. Material Emblems of Citizenship: Creating Public Water 3. Watering the Thirsty Poor: The Water Privatization Debate 4. Citizens without a City: The Techno-Politics of Urban Water Governance Part II. Beyond Privatization: Debating Alternatives 5. Protesting Privatization: Transnational Struggles over the Human Right to Water 6. Commons versus Commodities: The Ambiguous Merits of Community Water-Supply Management 7 Politics and Biopolitics: Debating Ecological Governance Conclusion: Beyond Privatization Notes References Index

About the Author

Karen Bakker is Professor, Canada Research Chair, and Founding Director of the Program on Water Governance at the University of British Columbia. She is the author of Eau Canada: The Future of Water Governance in Canada and An Uncooperative Commodity: Privatizing Water in England and Wales.


"Is water, arguably the most basic of human needs, the final frontier for capitalism? Is market governance of water nothing more than green imperialism? Karen Bakker's Privatizing Water bravely and provocatively takes on the state and private models for governing urban water and proposes a radical and deeply illuminating rethinking of keywords such as public, community, and the market. Water, she argues, is not well served by the 'modern social imaginary,' and she proposes alternatives grounded in deliberative democracy and in a profound understanding of water as a biophysical, cultural, aesthetic and public good. A tour de force."-Michael Watts, Class of 1963 Professor of Geography and Development Studies at the University of California, Berkeley Written by one of the world's leading specialists in water governance issues, Privatizing Water deepens, challenges, and combines the debates on urban water supply, sustainable development and equitable access to water and public services. Dynamically combining interdisciplinary theory and empirical evidence, the book gives powerful insight into the water privatization debate. It is rich in challenging conceptualizations that range from elite-based hydrosocial networks to the social production of thirst. By focusing on actual practices at diverse scales of water control, the author is able to show the real-life worlds of the many who are 'unconnected' to the formal networks and rather make their own hybrid water projects."-Rutgerd Boelens, Wageningen University "Privatizing Water is a much-needed volume that revisits the water privatization debate and takse us beyond conventional notions of public, private, and community management to critically explore their respective ideological underpinnings, shortcomings, and socio-ecological linkages, as well as possible alternatives."-Francois Molle, Institut de Recherche pour le Developpement "In this wise and humane book, Karen Bakker seeks to reshape the debate about water management worldwide. By challenging the idea that privatization and public ownership are opposed-and indeed the only-alternatives, she shines light on an issue of fundamental importance to all citizens and countless policy-makers. Karen Bakker makes the case for moving beyond existing policy approaches and shows why a new paradigm committed to flexibility and pragmatism is by far the best option."-Noel Castree, University of Manchester "Karen Bakker's book brings together a culmination of many years' painstaking work on the governance of water in an impressive array of geographical contexts. She provides a superb tour through the landscape, depicting with simultaneous nuance and clarity the possible trajectories-through rights, community and ecology-that could lead productively beyond the stalemates of a polarized debate over privatization."-Bronwen Morgan, University of Bristol

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