Privatizing social reproduction: The primitive accumulation of water in an era of neoliberalism

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Recent years have witnessed a resurgence of critical works seeking to extend Karl Marx's radical understanding of "primitive accumulation" in order to describe the increasing penetration of capital into new spaces and social relations in the contemporary era of neoliberal globalization. This paper will argue that the intensification of the commodification of water may be understood as an ongoing mechanism of primitive accumulation and that this process generates contradictions and tensions not solely for capitalist relations of production, but more crucially, for relations of social reproduction. Further, while recent years have witnessed the emergence of a new discourse on water governance that advocates a more active role for governments in the water sector and for the incorporation of the "voices" of women and the poor in the development of sustainable and equitable water policies, this new discourse ultimately remains informed by neoliberalism's individualist ontology and its material and discursive dedication to economic growth above broader social considerations. © 2008 The Author Journal compilation © 2008 Editorial Board of Antipode.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)535-560
Number of pages25
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2008


  • Commodification
  • Neoliberalism
  • Primitive accumulation
  • Social reproduction
  • Water privatization


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