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Title: An uncooperative community : revisiting water privatisation and commoditisation in England and Wales
Author: Walker, Gareth
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2014
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Since its inception in 1989, the private water sector of England and Wales has been enlisted as a centrepiece in debates concerning the merits of privatisation. Advocates point to increased environmental performance and increased investment. Critics note a significant retraction of the early free market aspirations and increasingly prescriptive regulation. However, market mechanisms and liberalisation are once again being emphasised in policy, reigniting the debate surrounding the commoditisation of water. This thesis engages directly and critically with Karen Bakker's 'Uncooperative Commodity' approach to the 'reregulation' of the industry, arguing its tenants must be adapted to accommodate these recent developments. While Bakker's earlier accounts of the reregulation of the water industry placed a great emphasis on the geography and biophysical properties of water, later work by both her and her contemporaries have developed more refined and socialised models of how water and society interact to produce temporary regularities in the material world. This thesis argues that an appropriate means of developing Bakker's original thesis would be a greater focus on socio-historical context when exploring the materiality of water, and hence the degree to which water may be transformed into a private commodity. Bob Jessop's Strategic Relational Approach (Jessop 2008) is deployed as a means of describing and relating: (1) the degree to which research can identify underlying mechanisms which govern the outcomes of attempts to commoditise water under capitalist modes of production, (2) the role of the state and politics in flanking or supporting the commoditisation of water and (3) the role of existing discursive-institutional structures in introducing path-dependencies and uneven power geometries which in turn effect the outcomes of collective action towards the commoditisation of water. The thesis documents historical developments in English and Welsh resource planning, regulation, and policy from 1945 to 2012 in order to explain the current structure of the industry, its response to water scarcity, and the origins of the current reform programme. It then focuses on the conflicts and tensions between actors in the industry generated by the current reform programme and their role in affecting the degree of success of the programme itself.
Supervisor: New, Mark Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Europe ; Climate systems and policy ; Technologies of politics and ecology ; Philosophy of science ; Political economy of markets and states ; Economic history ; Public policy ; Public Health ; Health and health policy ; Cultural Political Economy; Political Ecology; Water Privatization; Economic Regulation; Water Utilities; England and Wales