The Pennsylvania State University
Cover for the book Limiting Resources

Limiting Resources

Market-Led Reform and the Transformation of Public Goods LaDawn Haglund
  • Copyright: 2010
  • Dimensions: 6 x 9
  • Page Count: 256 pages
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-0-271-03718-9
  • Paperback ISBN: 978-0-271-03719-6
“This timely and important book traces the historical processes behind the privatisation of electricity and water services in El Salvador and Costa Rica, exploring the motivations behind these decisions. The book is a model of comparative research design. . . . Haglund’s study deserves to be widely read by students and scholars of comparative politics, globalisation and development studies, and public policy and administration. Its theoretical sophistication and accessible writing style make it suitable for use in upper-level undergraduate and graduate classrooms, but also of interest to experts.”

The provision of public goods such as education, electricity, health, sanitation, and water used to be regarded as primarily the responsibility of governments, but in the 1980s privatization of such services spread and reliance on market mechanisms instead of governments became common in many parts of the world, including developing countries. The record of the past twenty-five years of market-led development, however, has not been encouraging. Not only has it failed to improve public services significantly, but it has also undermined democratic institutions and processes, reproduced authoritarian relations of power, and suppressed alternatives made possible by an increasing global acceptance of the importance of economic and social rights. In Limiting Resources, LaDawn Haglund seeks an understanding of public goods that can better serve the needs of people in developing countries today.

Haglund critiques the narrow conception of public goods used in economics, which tends to limit the range of resources considered “public,” and proposes an expanded conception drawing from multiple disciplines that incorporates issues of justice, inclusion, and sustainability. She then uses case studies of electricity and water provision in Central America to illuminate the conditions for success and the causes of failure in constructing adequate mechanisms for the supply of public goods. She follows with an analysis of political conflicts over privatization that reveals how neoliberal policies have made effective state action difficult. The book concludes with suggestions for ways in which this reformulated conception of public goods can be applied to promote justice, sustainability, and economic and social rights in developing countries.

LaDawn Haglund is Assistant Professor of Justice and Social Inquiry at Arizona State University.


List of Figures

List of Tables



List of Acronyms

Introduction Public Utility Reform: Problems and Perspectives

1 Theorizing Public Goods: The Role of Organizing Principles

2 “For the People”: Constructing the “Public” of Public Goods

3 “Over Our Dead Bodies”: The Emergence of Privatization Policies

4 The Institutionalization of Market-Led Public Goods Provision

5 Power, Resistance, and Neoliberalism as Instituted Process

Conclusion Market Transformation of Public Goods

Appendix Methodological Notes



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