202932 Competing Conceptualizations of Fresh Water Commons Discourse

Monday, November 9, 2009

Kyle Ross Mitchell, PhD candidate , Department of Geography and Sociology, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, Scotland
Historically the term commons has been used to refer to collective rights to common land. Recently, the definition of the commons has been extended to include collective rights to things or institutional benefits other than simply rights to natural resources. The concept of the commons has come to include, then, collective resources and institutions such as water services, healthcare and education. In this era of economic globalisation, however, these and many other collective resources/institutions have come into question as they are increasingly exposed to the neo-liberal processes that contest collective rights. This contestation threatens the property relations that define resources/institutions that were hitherto considered a part of the commons. Specifically, this paper looks at not only the history of the commons, but also the history of the fresh water commons discourse and its competing uses. The paper will categorize the competing conceptualizations of the fresh water commons in an effort to draw upon the inconsistencies and contradictions that make up the mainstream commons discourse (e.g. resistance movements ‘reclaiming the commons' at one end of the spectrum and capitalist institutions, including corporations and supranational governing bodies, purporting to improve the quality of the commons on the other end). Ultimately, this paper will argue that the inconsistencies and contradictions that make up the mainstream commons discourse obscure the paradox that is the genuine existence of the commons within liberal democracies. Furthermore, the perpetuation of this mainstream commons discourse stifles genuine conceptualization and realization of the commons outside of the liberal democratic framework.

Learning Objectives:
1.Describe what is meant by the fresh water commons. 2.Compare and contrast the contested ideas of what the fresh water commons constitutes. 3.Formulate a comprehensive and operational definition of the fresh water commons, one that incorporates legal facilities so as to challenge and amend constitutional prerogatives related to water.

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: Having completed an MA thesis entitled, "The Political Economy of Fresh Water: From the Commons to Corporate Enclosure" and undertaking research in my second year of a PhD - which is an extension of my MA thesis - I offer a significant amount of insight and an alternative perspective to issues related to water. My experience on research teams, such as the Public Interest Research Network, has taught me the value of collaborative research as well as the importance of research conducted in the public interest. In addition, along with colleagues in the Public Interest Research Network, I organized an international conference at the EU in Brussels. Also, I have taught at various levels within a university setting.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.

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