Water supply privatization was emblematic of the neoliberal turn
in development policy in the 1990s. Proponents argued that the
private sector could provide better services at lower costs than
governments; opponents questioned the risks involved in delegating
control over a life-sustaining resource to for-profit companies.
Private-sector activity was most concentrated-and contested-in
large cities in developing countries, where the widespread lack of
access to networked water supplies was characterized as a global
In Privatizing Water, Karen Bakker focuses on three
questions: Why did privatization emerge as a preferred alternative
for managing urban water supply? Can privatization fulfill its
proponents' expectations, particularly with respect to water supply
to the urban poor? And, given the apparent shortcomings of both
privatization and conventional approaches to government provision,
what are the alternatives? In answering these questions, Bakker
engages with broader debates over the role of the private sector in
development, the role of urban communities in the provision of
"public" services, and the governance of public goods. She
introduces the concept of "governance failure" as a means of
exploring the limitations facing both private companies and
Critically examining a range of issues-including the
transnational struggle over the human right to water, the "commons"
as a water-supply-management strategy, and the environmental
dimensions of water privatization-Privatizing Water is a
balanced exploration of a critical issue that affects billions of
people around the world.
Subjects: Political Science
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