Rethinking Traditional Alignments: Privatization and Participatory Citizenship


26 Pages Posted: 21 May 2005

See all articles by Orly Lobel

Orly Lobel

University of San Diego School of Law


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.

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

JEL Classification: I, K2, K3

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:

Orly Lobel (Contact Author)

University of San Diego School of Law ( email )

5998 Alcala Park
San Diego, CA 92110-2492
United States


Here is the Coronavirus
related research on SSRN

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics