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Rethinking Traditional Alignments: Privatization and Participatory Citizenship

Orly Lobel

University of San Diego School of Law; Harvard Law School


Privatization has been traditionally perceived as a threat to social justice from the perspective of progressive lawyers. The concept has been understood as an inherently conservative project that must be resisted. However, recent developments in both theory and practice illuminate the ways in which privatization processes can and should be pluralized conceptually and pragmatically. Progressive scholars must seize the opportunity to explore the question of privatization in terms of participatory citizenship and democratic governance. Privatization has incorporated under its conceptual umbrella a vast range of processes including selling government assets, leasing, outsourcing, contracting-out, deregulating, franchising, vouchering, and shifts from direct public action to grants, loans, loan guarantees, and subsidies of private action. As a result of the disengagement of progressive reformers with privatization, the social and democratic aspects of privatization alternatives have been underdeveloped. The article introduces a nascent progressive intervention in the discourse of privatization. It discusses a variety of domains where recent experimentation with public-private partnerships reveal the potential to enrich our concepts of democracy and progressive law and lawyering. Three central strategies of the new progressive engagement are discussed. The first strategy is the pluralization of the projects of privatization, revealing how the term privatization is already employed to signify a myriad of governance mechanisms, processes, and structures. Second, the inclusion of recent initiatives of public/private partnerships within the range of privatization possibilities enables a more robust concept of progressive participatory privatization. The emerging vision is brought to bear on three areas - workfare, school reform, and budgeting restructuring - in which aspiration and practices of alternative privatization processes are unfolding. The final step is therefore to recognize the implications of innovative governance architecture for the on-going roles of government and the legal system in the new political economy.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 26

Keywords: Privatization, outsourcing, administrative law, education, schooling, deregulatiuon

JEL Classification: I, K2, K3

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Date posted: May 21, 2005  

Suggested Citation

Lobel, Orly, Rethinking Traditional Alignments: Privatization and Participatory Citizenship. PROGRESSIVE LAWYERING, GLOBALIZATION AND MARKETS: RETHINKING IDEOLOGY AND STRATEGY, Clare Dalton, ed.. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=726549

Contact Information

Orly Lobel (Contact Author)
University of San Diego School of Law ( email )
5998 Alcala Park
San Diego, CA 92110-2492
United States
HOME PAGE: http://home.sandiego.edu/%7Elobel/
Harvard Law School ( email )
1575 Massachusetts
Hauser 406
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
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