Fighting for Water

Resisting Privatization in Europe

Andreas Bieler


An in-depth analysis of the struggles against water privatisation across Europe in the wake of the global financial crisis.

In the wake of the global financial crisis, water services have come under renewed neoliberal assault across Europe. At the same time, the struggle against water privatization has continued to pick up pace; from the re-municipalization of water in Grenoble in 2000, to the United Nations declaration of water as a human right in 2010.

In Fighting for Water, Andreas Bieler draws on years of extensive fieldwork to dissect the underlying dynamics of the struggle for public water in Europe. From the successful referendum against water privatization in Italy, via the European Citizens’ Initiative on ‘Water and Sanitation are a Human Right’, the struggles against water privatization in Greece and water charges in Ireland, Bieler shows why water has been a fruitful arena for resistance against neoliberal restructuring.

Author Bio

Andreas Bieler is Professor of Political Economy in the School of Politics and International Relations and Co-Director of the Centre for the Study of Social and Global Justice (CSSGJ) at the University of Nottingham. 

Table of Contents

  • Chapter 1 – Resisting water privatisation: An introduction.
  • Chapter 2 – Capitalism’s relentless thirst for accumulation
  • Chapter 3 – Mobilising from below: victory in the Italian water referendum
  • Chapter 4 – Water is a Human Right: The first European Citizens’ Initiative over public water
  • Chapter 5 – Contesting the Troika: resistance in Greece against imposed water privatisation
  • Chapter 6 – ‘We will strike, we will fight, water is a human right’: The Irish people rise up
  • Chapter 7 – Transforming capitalism towards the commons?


‘For decades, creeping privatization of water services has threatened the human right to water all over the world. This timely and impeccably researched book shows how European activists successfully challenged the giant water corporations in their own backyard, thereby advancing the human rights to water and sanitation everywhere. This is a story of hope, at a time when we all need it.’
                                                                                   Maude Barlow, Author and Water Activist

‘This book is an inspiring read. It is based on extensive research and interviews with trade union- and water movement- activists . It shows that the water struggles and resistance to privatisation in several countries and for the human right to water and sanitation at EU level are part of a broader fight to move beyond capitalism. Critical but always sympathetic and engaged the book finds what joint campaigns of social movements can achieve. These will be valuable lessons in the years to come when we face the aftermath of the pandemic’s economic crisis of 2020 and we will demand the redistribution of wealth.’
                                                                                  Jan Willem Goudriaan, General Secretary of EPSU, Europe’s largest federation of public service trade unions

Fighting for Water is a fascinating, exciting account of the struggle for publicly owned water. Bieler’s analysis of campaign victories in Italy, Greece, Ireland and at the European level is inspiring, highlighting the successful alliances that can be built between trade unions, environmental groups and citizens’ movements. This book is a huge contribution to understanding how we can take back our water as a commons, not a commodity – something that people across the world believe in.
Cat Hobbs, Founder and Director of We Own It

Andreas Bieler’s book Fighting for Water undertakes a breathtaking comparative analysis of water privatization in Europe to demonstrate the importance of understanding connections across local resistances to wider capitalist exploitation of water. A historical materialist approach to investigate capitalism in the restructuring the political economy of water and social movements, with excellent empirical examples, provides readers with deeper appreciation of the specificities of cases but fluidly demonstrates why understanding the wider nature of capitalist crises remains fundamental. The book is essential reading to anyone interested in how neoliberal capitalism is continually restructuring our worlds and the importance of ongoing social struggles to fulfill of our basic human right to water.
Farhana Sultana, Associate Professor, Syracuse University


Publication Date: 17 June 2021
288 pages

Product ISBNs: Paperback: 9781786995087
Hardback: 9781786993250
eBook ePub: 9781786997739
eBook Kindle: 9781786997753

Why is peer review so important?

Learn more about the various types of peer review, why it’s so important, what the social and political considerations of peer review are and how we use it at Zed Books.