economists and assorted conservatives and liberals. Conveniently forgetting how inmany countries around the world, the state managed during the 20
century tobring water to everyone, light our houses with electricity, erect some buffer againstexcessive social and environmental exploitation, plan and build all manner of infra-structure, provide hospitals, make education accessible for all, and thus guaranteesome sense of security, state provision has been uncritically attacked in recent yearsas necessarily wasteful, inefﬁcient, and sub-optimal. Furthermore, other forms of social organization of production, such as communitarian, collective, or associational,are equally considered to operate far below what a privatized market-based system candeliver (except, of course, in the case of associational or collective production orga-nized through share-holding).The second line of argument, in turn, revolves around the unequivocal celebra-tion of market forces and private ownership. Mobilizing both moralistic argumentssuch as Hardin’s
Tragedy of the Commons
and utopian arguments about the promisesof development and success foretold by free market pundits, privately owned andmarket organized production is invariably portrayed as leading to the most optimaloutput and the most socially desirable distribution of value. This twin argumentforms the backbone of the current wave of neoliberalism that renders accumulationby dispossession as desirable as the next version of the Windows operating system.Yet, “making a buck” is indeed not that easy, even under neoliberal rule. For one,those dispossessed do not necessarily passively accept the theft of what they considerto be rightfully theirs. Secondly, once under the aegis of private capital accumulation,all manner of social tensions and conﬂicts arise. Predatory competitors loom aroundthe corner; recalcitrant workers raise the specter of new forms of class struggle; dis-gruntled consumers mobilize the weapons of the weak when it becomes clear that theinitial promises fail to materialise. And the state, or other forms of collective insti-tutional organization, must step in yet again to assure that accumulation by disposses-sion keeps going, notwithstanding the proliferation of social protests.Over the last two decades, water has become one of the central testing groundsfor the implementation of global and national neoliberal policies. The privatization of water production and delivery services, particularly urban water supply systems, hasbecome an important arena in which global capitalist companies operate in search of economic growth and proﬁts. The water sector, together with many others, hasbecome one of the battleﬁelds over which “accumulation by dispossession” tacticsare waged, often won by capital, and occasionally lost.
Tactics of Dispossession: How Did it Happen?
Despite the raging debates over potential or actual shifts towards privatization,there is, in fact, a long history of changes in the urban water supply sector. Indeed,since the inception of urban water systems, they have always been characterized byshifting conﬁgurations of public-private partnerships and, consequently, by differentDISPOSSESSING H