Water, the commons and rights

The paper I co-wrote with Kyle Mitchell has now officially come out in the Review of Radical Political Economics. If you want a copy, feel free to email me (contact info is on the “about” page at the bottom).

The paper emerged out of conversations Kyle and I had while we wrote our respective chapters for the book, The human right to water: politics, governance and social struggles, edited by Sultana and Loftus. In general, we were both interested in how human rights are often (and increasingly) taken up or interpreted in terms compatible with property rights. In some cases this is explicit, as in the World Economic Forum’s book on water security.

On the other hand, we were curious as to how appeals to the “commons” variously fit with, or confront, different struggles for and against the articulation of human rights with the broader political economy of property rights. So what we do in this paper is identify the assumptions of political economy and certain representations of the ‘commons’ and show how we can parse these out from versions of the ‘commons’ that are used to confront linkages between human and property rights.

To do so, we draw on Charles Taylor’s great article “Cross-purposes” and and how different moral goods align (or not) with different commitments to political advocacy.

All responses are very welcome.

Saskia Sassen on re-nationalizing membership

An interesting argument on the loss of membership under new forms of ‘nationalism’ for citizens, and the gains for others (i.e. corporations) – from Brodt fur die Welt:

My latest paper just came out: Property and the right to water

This is a co-written piece with Kyle Mitchell, from Strathclyde University and it appears here, in the Review of Radical Political Economics. If you don’t have a subscription, but would like a copy, feel free to email for this or any other papers.

Property and the Right to Water: Toward a Non-Liberal Commons
  1. Jeremy J. Schmidt jeremy.john.schmidt [at] gmail.com

    1. University of Western Ontario, London, ON, Canada
  2. Kyle R. Mitchell

    1. University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, Scotland, UK

This paper examines the turn to considerations of property in arguments regarding the commons and the human right to water. It identifies commitments to liberalism in political economy approaches to property and human rights and develops a matrix for identifying non-liberal conceptions of the commons. The latter holds potential for an agonistic politics in which human rights are compatible with ecological sensibilities regarding the dynamics of conflict and cooperation in complex systems.

JEL classification: P48; Q25

Is there still a right to water?

Last Friday there was a meeting at the Foundation for Law, Justice and Society on the topic of water.

There are a number of interesting pdfs available to read and the event looks like it was quite interesting. Here is a blurb from the website:
“Representatives from the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra), the Environment Agency, and the National Farmers’ Union were brought together with water industry and academic experts by the Foundation for Law, Justice and Society on Tuesday at an Oxford workshop to discuss the right to water in the face of increasing pressures associated with climate change.

The workshop, entitled Economic Rights and Regulatory Regimes: Is there still a ‘right’ to water? addressed the evolving environmental policy context of the UK government’s proposed reforms to the licensing system for abstracting water in England and Wales.

Dr Bettina Lange of the Centre for Socio-Legal Studies (Oxford University) and Dr Mark Shepheard from McGill University (Canada) convened the event, which was held at Wolfson College, Oxford before an audience of over fifty scholars and practitioners working on water and environmental issues.

In advance of the United Nations World Water Day on 22 March, which this year focuses on water cooperation, the workshop provided a timely opportunity for senior strategists at Defra, the Environment Agency, water companies, and the NFU to discuss the issues raised by increasing regulatory intervention and water scarcity linked to population growth and climate change. The event also enabled participants to formulate responses to the evolving environmental policy context of the UK government’s White Paper ‘Water for Life’ and Draft Water Bill announced last year and currently entering a period of assessment and consultation, which was outlined by Defra’s Head of Future Water Resource Management Project Henry Leveson-Gower.” READ MORE

Country, native title, and ecology: a new (free!) e-book

Australian National University Press has published Jessica K. Weir’s

edited collection: Country, native title and ecology.Country, title and ecology

It is freely available as a download e-pub document here or, if you don’t have an e-reader (or software to convert the file for your PC) then you can read it online at the same link.

Here is the opening paragraph, followed by the table of contents, it looks quite interesting:

“The overtly technical process of making a native title application has obscured one of the central reasons why Indigenous people engage with the native title system – to affirm and promote their relationships with country. This publication focuses on Indigenous peoples’ relationships with country, and seeks to discuss native title in terms that are more directly related to those relationships. In doing so, we also describe ways of living on country that inform and critique mainstream land and water management. This volume also includes case studies that are not classified as part of the native title system, so as to broaden native title issues into the frame of traditional ownership. Limitations with common and statutory native title law have meant that native title is not a land justice system accessible to all traditional owners of country. Profound connection to country frequently exists where native title cannot be successfully applied for, or where traditional owners choose not to make native title applications.”

Title page

Imprint and copyright information

List of Figures and Tables


List of Shortened Forms


1. Country, Native Title and Ecology

2. Connections of Spirit: Kuninjku Attachments to Country

3. The Kalpurtu Water Cycle: Bringing Life to the Desert of the South West Kimberley

4. ‘Two Ways’: Bringing Indigenous and Non-Indigenous Knowledges Together

5. Water Planning and Native Title: A Karajarri and Government Engagement in the West Kimberley

6. Native Title and Ecology: Agreement-making in an Era of Market Environmentalism

7. Towards a Carbon Constrained Future: Climate Change, Emissions Trading and Indigenous Peoples’ Rights in Australia