Making Public in a Privatized World

The Struggle for Essential Services

Edited by David A. McDonald


A diverse and innovative collection that explores the radical and innovative ways in which public services in the global south are being remade from below.

How do we provide effective public services in a deeply neoliberal world? In the wake of the widespread failure of privatisation efforts, societies in the global south are increasingly seeking progressive ways of recreating the public sector. With contributors ranging from cutting-edge scholars to activists working in health, water, and energy provision, and with case studies covering a broad spectrum of localities and actors, Making Public in a Privatized World uncovers the radically different ways in which public services are being reshaped from the grassroots up.

From communities holding the state accountable for public health in rural Guatemala, to waste pickers in India and decentralized solar electricity initiatives in Africa, the essays in this collection offer probing insights into the complex ways in which people are building genuine alternatives to privatization, while also illustrating the challenges which communities face in creating public services which are not subordinated to the logic of the market, or to the monolithic state entities of the past.

Author Bio

David A. McDonald is professor of global development studies at Queen’s University, Canada. He is founder and co-director of the Municipal Services Project, a research initiative that explores progressive and innovative public service delivery models throughout Africa, Asia and Latin America. He holds a doctorate in political science from the University of Toronto and is the editor of Rethinking Corporatization and Public Services in the Global South (Zed Books, 2014), amongst numerous other works.

Table of Contents

  • 1. Introduction: The Wonderful Worlds of Making Public - David A. McDonald
  • Part I: Engaging Communities and Workers
    • 2. Work of the Ants: Labour and Community Reinventing Public Water in Colombia - Madeleine Bélanger Dumontier, Susan Spronk and Adrian Murray
    • 3. Old Trash, New Ideas: Public Waste Management and Informal Reclaimers - Melanie Samson
    • 4. Ships Passing in the Dark? Reigniting Labour-Community Alliances for Public Services in South Africa - Dale T. McKinley
    • 5. Public Health for Indigenous Peoples in Guatemala: Monitoring from the Bottom Up - Walter Flores
  • Part II: Recognising Quasi-Public Actors
    • 6. Electrified Publics and Informal Settlements in Urban India - Bipasha Baruah
    • 7. Principles and Pitfalls: Searching for Public in 'Community-Led Total Sanitation' - Mary Galvin
    • 8. Public Faith: Christian and Muslim Health Services in Uganda - Yoswa M. Dambisya, Mulalo Manenzhe and Allie B. Kibwika-Muyinda
  • Part III: Promoting Equity and Democratic Control
    • 9. Gender Equity, Citizenship and Public Water in Bangladesh - Farhana Sultana, Chandra Talpade Mohanty and Sarah Miraglia
    • 10. Struggling for Public, Reclaiming Citizenship: Everyday Practices of Access to Water in Medellín, Colombia - Marcela López
    • 11. Public Renewable Energy in Africa: The Potential for Democratic Electrification - Sandra van Niekerk
  • Part IV: Financing Public Services
    • 12. (Re)Making Public Banks: The Case of Turkey - Thomas Marois and Ali Rıza Güngen
    • 13. Pragmatic Publics in the Heartland of Capitalism: Local Services in the United States - Mildred E. Warner
    • 14. Post-Neoliberalism in Bolivia? Water Sector Reforms Under Evo Morales - Susan Spronk
    • 15. Conclusion: Building a Global Pro-Public Movement - David A. McDonald


'An excellent and timely book that is a welcome contribution to the growing debate about alternatives to neoliberalism and privatization in critical public services.'
Andrew Cumbers, University of Glasgow

‘A remarkable collection of work and an urgently needed intervention into struggles over public services. It deserves to be read by those depressed by the rolling tide of privatization and by those struggling to find better ways of serving publics.’
John Clarke, The Open University

‘This superb collection explores convincingly why public services should indeed be delivered by the public and not by private companies. The contributions offer an extraordinarily insightful foray into the contours of and possibilities for inclusive and democratic public service delivery, both within and outside of the state.’
Erik Swyngedouw, University of Manchester


Publication Date: 15 February 2016
280 pages

Product ISBNs: Paperback: 9781783604821
Hardback: 9781783604838
eBook ePub: 9781783604852
eBook PDF: 9781783604845
eBook Kindle: 9781783604869

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