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Even flow: water privatization and the mobilization of power in the Philippines

Chng, Nai Rui (2013) Even flow: water privatization and the mobilization of power in the Philippines. PhD thesis, The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).

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This thesis investigates the politics of privatization and contentious collective action in the water sector in the Philippines. It examines the complex interplay of diverse forces in the everyday politics of water in Metropolitan Manila with a particular emphasis on organized urban poor communities and non-governmental organizations. The thesis illustrates how these groups engage with regulatory agencies, multilateral institutions, transnational corporations, informal water venders, and local machine politicians to play key roles in shaping the regulation of water provision in the developing world. Thus, to understand the material realities and lived experiences of the urban poor in cities like Metro Manila, close attention must be paid to patterns of contestation, competition, and collaboration among a diverse array of actors, across local, national, and international levels of analysis. Using Karl Polanyi’s insights on the socio-political consequences of market extension as a point of departure, I show that although water privatization and social resistance can be understood in terms of a ‘double movement’, Polanyi’s framework is insufficient for more detailed analysis. Hence, I develop new analytical tools to examine the nature of water privatization-related mobilization in the Philippines. Examining the micro-politics of the urban poor in their collective action for water at the local level, I argue that privatization has engendered countervailing power in the water sector that is neither fully transgressive nor completely contained, and steeped in local and historical legacies of radical resistance in the Philippines. At the policy level, I show how NGOs and local community groups undertake what I term “regulatory mobilization” to influence the new rules of the service delivery game, as well as to deliver much- needed basic services to urban poor communities. Depending on how local and sectoral politics are conflated, such regulatory mobilization may sometimes not only result in obtaining subsistence goods, but may also occasionally project countervailing power in the policy sector, and influence formal regulatory frameworks in surprising ways.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2013 Nai Rui Chng
Library of Congress subject classification: H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor
J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
J Political Science > JQ Political institutions Asia
Sets: Departments > Government
Supervisor: Sidel, John T.

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