The Meaning of Privatization


Most of us keep using the term ‘privatisation’ as if it has one meaning. The article that I link below is a fine informative piece on the ‘theory and rhetoric of privatisation’ in the Western societies.

But we need to recognise that in some societies the state and politics worked to to protect the ‘private interest of the few’ in the so-called public spaces. That is to say, these countries do not have a public domain that focusses on protecting public interest.  Also see a previous post on this subject.

Why does this happen? I have argued elsewhere that this may be so because the public-private distinction has not evolved as an organising principle in such societies.  Rather they have encountered the ‘modern’ version of this duality through encounter with colonial powers. Its form and the practice associated with it was not the same in the colonies.

I have argued that private assumes its meaning in the Western societies in relation to, and under check from, a robust idea of public.  Numerous scholars have written about ways in which this duality manifests itself in almost all discursive fields such as education, medicine, government and so on. So the public-private duality is perhaps the principal organising principle of political life of most Western societies. The idea of ‘public interest’ and ‘citizenship rights’ etc. appears in a big way, therefore, in political debates in such societies. Further, secularisation of societies can also be interpreted as a kind of privatisation.

But in those societies, where the public-private duality is not the same kind of organising principle, there is no well identified idea of ‘public interest,’ and the terms like citizen also sometime sound vacuous. In such societies, economic privatisation [usually used for the liberalisation and promotion of free market] happens in isolation, and sometimes even more liberally than in the hyper capitalist societies such as the United States.

So the examples in this piece need to be interpreted while keeping in mind the culturally informed nature of public spheres in different societies. An excerpt and link to the article follows:

The normative theories justifying privatization as a direction for public policy draw their inspiration from several different visions of a good society. By far the most influential is the vision grounded in laissez-faire individualism and free-market economics that promises greater efficiency, a smaller government, and more individual choice if only we expand the domain of property rights and market forces. A second vision, rooted in a more socially minded conservative tradition, promises a return of power to communities through a greater reliance in social provision on families, churches, and other largely nonprofit institutions. Privatization, in this view, means a devolution of power from the state to ostensibly nonpolitical and noncommercial forms of human association. Yet a third perspective sees privatization as a political strategy for diverting demands away from the state and thereby reducing government “overload.” This last view, identified particularly with recent neoconservative thought, does not necessarily conflict with the other two–indeed, some advocates of privatization draw on all three–but each vision suggests a different framework for analysis and policy.

via The Meaning of Privatization.

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About Irfan

I am an independent researcher and blogger interested in everything under the sun, but more so in the philosophy and history of education and education reform generally, and specifically in the so-called post colonial contexts

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