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Reviews: Social Power and the Urbanization of Water: Flows of Power, An Uncooperative Commodity: Privatizing Water in England and Wales, the Aesthetics of Free Speech: Rethinking the Public Sphere, Environmental Governance Reconsidered: Challenges, Choices, and Opportunities, Political Globalization: State, Power and Social Forces, Corruption, Politics and Development: The Role of the World Bank, Comparative Health Policy, Paths to a New Europe, Greenhouse Economics: Value and Ethics

Social power and the urbanization of water: flows of power by E Swyngedouw; Oxford University
Press, Oxford, 2004, 209 pages, »47.00 (US $85.00) ISBN 019 8233914
Reading the recent memoirs of the former US Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill, I found one of
the most striking moments in the book is his realisation that providing clean drinking water in
developing countries is a much more complex task than he anticipates. Applying his usual
Occam's razor approach, he cannot conceive why simple solutions cannot be delivered through
the USA's geopolitical might, but instead stumble against a seemingly trivial array of problems,
hurdles, and barriers.
Indeed, the domestic economic strength of the USA is part of the problem, with US consult-
ing companies, nongovernmental organisations, and utilities firms all standing in the way of
his simple solution. And if the world's most powerful minister of finance cannot solve the
problems of access to water for the 1.2 billion who today lack access to that most vital of
resources, potable water, then what hope is there for solving the problem without which other
issues of development and social justice cannot adequately be addressed?
It is the seeming complexity of the provision of water with which Erik Swyngedouw wrestles
in his new monograph, Social Power and the Urbanisation of Water: Flows of Power.Although
he uses water as a means of providing a more general exploration into power struggles and the
changing social relations of production, the book does indeed provide a detailed analysis of
how capital development can produce and deny access to drinking water. The book is focused
around a case study of a single town in Ecuador, Guayaquil, and provides a detailed historical
materialist analysis of the changing economic fortunes of the town and its capacity to provide
access to drinking water.
The book is situated within a conceptual framework of political ecology; the essence of that
framework is as a critique of neo-Marxian analyses which assume and obscure the conversion of
nature into commodity. Political ecological approaches begin by exploring the interdependence
of economic activity on the capacity of societies to convert and commodify nature. In his own
words, he is interested in bringing together:
``The tensions, conflicts and forces that flow with water through the body, the city, the region
and the globe show the cracks in the lines, the meshes in the net, the spaces and plateaus of
resistance and power'' (page 26).
Just as studying the urban form provides insights into the power relations and struggles
which dominate urban life, so studying how societies mobilise to `metabolise nature' (in the
political-economic terminology) excavates the power relations and struggles more generally in
society. And in that regard, the book performs impeccably, the detailed case study of water
provision providing detailed insights into broader subjects such as the spatiopolitical organisa-
tion of Ecuadorian society as well as the relationship between the city, its residents, and the
international product markets on which its commodities are sold.
This is a long and arduous intellectual journey to make and the book is broadly sympa-
thetic of its readers requirements in this regard. There is a strong and clear set of messages,
and the structure of the book allows the readers gently to assimilate Swyngedouw's arguments
over the course of its 180-odd pages. There is a general introduction which sets out a rationale
for political ecology approaches, followed by a conceptual section in which he presents his
dialectic method, which he terms ``the production of socio-nature'' (page 22). There is then an
introductory section to the city of Guayaquil, and a presentation of some of the issues con-
cerning water shortage in that case study. The bulk of the analysis is provided in the five
following chapters, five interrelated and overlapping stories about how economic development,
political struggles, technical change, and urbanisation have all contributed to making the very
complex and socially unjust picture which is visible today.
Environment and Planning C: Government and Policy 2005, volume 23, pages 617^ 632
The net effect of all this is remarkably impressive, bringing together in a single conceptual
space a range of actors and impulses over time and space, which demonstrates how partic-
ular situations have to be understood in the context of a diverse range of variables. The
dialectical approach is his justification for blending such catholic phenomena into a singular
and strong narrative, and he employs his regular tools to structure such narratives, in partic-
ular periodisation across time scales varying from the short term (the evolution of the water
trucks in Guayaquil, pages 146 ^ 147) to the longue dure
¨e(water, personal hygiene, and urban
life, pages 33^ 35).
The growth of Guayaquil as a city is explained in terms of four economic periods, the last
three dominated by the respective commodities of cocoa, oil, and bananas, and its relationships
with the companies and countries which dominated those markets. So the contemporary shortage
of water in Guayaquil is a consequence of urbanisation since the 1930s in which local political
elites were not able or willing to spend export income on developing water infrastructure at a
rate which matched the growth of the urban area.
The overall effect of this is to produce a sense of comprehensibility of the problem, albeit
one in which any understanding continually requires further explanation and rationalisation.
So in terms of the explanation above, it becomes necessary to look at the shifting geograph-
ical locus of Ecuador's political centre of gravity, alongside the changing geo-economics of
the commodity markets of the various export products on which Guayaquil was dependent.
Indeed, the book is much more than a collection of separate papers; the presentation of so
much material invites readers to make their own combinations between chapters to understand
the situation of how conditions of scarcity can emerge, even within publicly owned water
That allows the book to circumvent the criticisms which can be made of Swyngedouw's
journal articles, that the dialectical approach produces such tightly constructed narratives that
it is not possible to envisage alternatives, which leaves shorter articles feeling somewhat incom-
plete. It is reassuring that the extra space which a book allows makes the dialectic method
feel more, rather than less, intellectually satisfying.
One of the main themes in the book is in the role of privatisation as constructing scarcity
of water; the book portrays the public sector as such a poor manager of the water sector since the
1950s, that privatisation was a sensible approach to try to raise private capital. The book also
demonstrates in great detail that the way that privatisation was managed was that it discouraged
capital inflow and instead encouraged increased efficiency of existing assets, something which
directly led to the failure of privatisation to address the problems to which it was the presumed
solution. This message of the importance of the state in creating market incentives which meet
social needs as being vital to any solution is something the conclusion dwells on at length.
The fact that the book is quite explicit in highlighting these linkages means that it is easy
to use the material in the book in an explanatory manner, to take out particular elements and
reassemble them oneself into a coherent narrative. This feature makes the book that most
rare of monographs, wholeheartedly appealing to students, even at an undergraduate as well as
postgraduate level. In that regard, the second chapter also has a useful history of the history
of political ecological ideas implicit within geographical thought, such as Marxian analysis and
Witfogel's hydraulic society thesis.
Of course, there are always limitations to any work, and with a 180-page case study, it
raises far more questions than it can hope to answer. My main issue with the book is that,
in developing an opening theoretical framework, Swyngedouw uses a very ambitious dialectical
approach. On page 22 he offers a conceptual map in which the dialectics of the material and
representational production of socio-nature are combined, and so the reader's hopes are raised
that Swyngedouw will extend materialist analyses into the domains of representation, dealing
with the ``discursive constructions ... cultural practices ... representational practices'' to which
his model alludes (page 19).
This is of course an incredibly ambitious intellectual agenda, and it is perhaps somewhat
unsurprising that the representational production of socio-nature does not emerge as a strong
narrative period within the book. On page 107, for example, he looks at a significant point in
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the city's water supply in 1959 when the local municipality decided to set the policy goal of every
household having unlimited access to piped water, whilst doing nothing to achieve the goal.
Swyngedouw argues, entirely reasonably, that this `policy' was in fact a canard to mask
four sharp tensions. The analysis he offers reads as broadly political-economic, firmly within
the ``materialist production of socio-nature'' sphere (page 18), but this is precisely where I
would have expected the dialectic between materialist and representational productions to be
of most explanatory use. I would stress that this is not a critique of the analysis, but there is a
slight feeling that there remains more to be said about the case study.
This leads to the second question which the book does not fully answer to which I pre-
viously alluded: what are the alternatives in terms not only of interpretation but also in terms
of the counterfactual situations, and what difference could other strategies have made to the
outcome? This latter point is particularly important given the global problems of ensuring
universal access to water, and the apparent complexity, experienced at first hand by Paul O'Neill,
in trying to redress the situation. The problem with the dialectical approach is that it obscures
cause, effect, and internal structure, and consequently it is not immediately clear what the
alternatives are.
In talking about privatisation, he refers repeatedly to the ```failed' privatisation in Cochabamba''
(page 131) in Bolivia, from where a private investor was ejected from running the public water
business. He refers repeatedly to the example without every really exploring whether there
were lessons from the Cochabamba experience that could be applied to the Guayaquil situa-
tion. You could conceivably argue that the Cochabamba case is used `representationally' to
provide the antithetical tension against a materialist situation within the productionist dialectic.
Regardless of this theoretical justification, the practical effect is to create an irritating `black
box' which seems to need opening.
These two points are themselves easily overwhelmed by the strengths of the book; indeed,
beyond the substantive narratives, the book contains many interesting anecdotes, contrasting
the fact that North America has the smallest market for privatised water services with the
fact that North America is one of the strongest promoters of the `privatisation' water business
management model. Another sign of the strength of the book is that, in writing this review, I
have had to ignore at least two of its most significant narratives to hold the review to a reason-
able length. Sitting alongside the stories of urban growth and externally driven privatisation,
for example, is a fascinating story of petty capitalism and exploitation in the system of private
vendors selling public water at vastly inflated prices to the poorest areas of Guayaquil.
The book comes to the conclusion that markets need to be managed in the interests of
the poorest in society if water markets are to provide, as they do in developed countries, access
for all to a vital resource. His message is that struggles over water need to be reconnected to the
state, to use the power of the state to make markets work better. In particular, he cautions against
allowing cheap, nongovernmental solutions to place the poorest outside the scope of the markets,
which then places them out of contact from
and hence interdependence with
the capital
investment undoubtedly necessary to create infrastructure allowing access to water for all. The
solutions proposed in the final chapter do flow well out of the detailed analysis offered and,
ultimately, the book coheres well. Social Power and the Urbanization of Water is an exemplary,
memorable monograph, offering much of interest to all readers with interests in the political
economy of uneven development.
Paul Benneworth
Department of Human Geography, Radboud University of Nijmegen, 6500 Nijmegen,
The Netherlands
An uncooperative commodity: privatizing water in England and Wales by K Bakker; Oxford
University Press, Oxford, 2003, 224 pages, »45.00 (US $85.00) ISBN 0 19 925365 X
This highly accomplished study deserves a wider readership than it will doubtless get. A pricey
university press hardback, An Uncooperative Commodity should be essential reading for academics,
policymakers, and practitioners with interests in how best to manage those natural resources that
are fundamental to human well-being. Meticulously researched and written in unpretentious
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prose, the book focuses on one of the most extraordinary experiments in natural resource
management in recent times. In December 1989 the English and Welsh public water and sewerage
authorities were privatised by the Conservative government. Sixteen years on, water supply in
England and Wales remains unique: no other advanced capitalist country has so thoroughly
given over its water industry to the private sector. Given that Karen Bakker's book is compre-
hensive without ever sacrificing depth of analysis, it is all the more remarkable that it began life
as a PhD (prior to her current position in Geography at the University of British Columbia she
was a doctoral and then postdoctoral student at Oxford University). Indeed, An Uncooperative
Commodity is the exception that proves the rule: few British PhD students that I am aware of
could come close to writing a thesis-based book as ambitious or sophisticated as hers.
The overall aim of the monograph is twofold: first, to describe and explain a profound
shift in water management from a `state hydraulic' to a `market environmentalist' paradigm;
and, second, to assess whether the latter has been a success, both on its own terms and relative
to alternative models of water resource management (such as the public management model
the Conservatives abandoned in 1989). The Conservatives' decision to privatise water supply
and sewerage came late relative to other public utilities in England and Wales and was con-
troversial from the start. As Bakker shows, the proximate reasons for the decision were many
and complex, but must be understood against the background of neoliberal arguments that
gained increasing prominence in the Anglophone world from the mid-1970s. These arguments
had both a critical and a positive dimension. The former related to the supposed `state failure'
that neoliberals saw in numerous areas in which government delivered goods and services.
In the case of water supply in England and Wales, that failure was manifested in such things
as declining water quality, increasing rates of water leakage, and rising water prices in the
postwar era. The positive argument for privatising public utilities, as is now well known, was
that the private sector could do more for less when compared with the state. In the case of
water, the argument was threefold: there would be increased efficiency in water use (conserva-
tion), a shift towards economic equity over social equity (water going to the highest value uses),
and improved water services and quality (as `citizens' became `paying consumers'). Market
environmentalism in the water supply sector was thus the antithesis of the state-hydraulic
paradigm that had prevailed in postwar Britain which had involved sociospatial equity, ``planning
for growth, supply-led solutions, command-and-control regulation, a discursive representation
of nature as a `resource', and state ownership'' (page 13). The irony of the 1989 abandonment of
state control over water supply and sewerage, as Bakker notes, is that this control had been
justified in the first place with reference to `market failure' in the early-to-mid 20th century.
Water, as Bakker's title announces, is inherently `uncooperative' when it comes to attempts
to commodifying it. It is one of those Polanyian phenomena that throws up barriers to com-
plete commodification. For instance, because it is ``one of the heaviest substances mobilized
by human beings in their daily search for subsistence [it is] ... expensive to transport relative to
its value, ... requiring large-scale capital investments in infrastructure networks which act as
an effective barrier to market entry'' (page 33). Specifically, Bakker identifies two kinds of
market failure that stem from the material properties of water: water supply monopoly (supply
by one firm entails lower costs than supply by several); and externalities (costs and benefits
not internalised into the price of water, such as pollution of a river or lake). In addition, public
(or `merit') good arguments
namely, that water is essential for human existence and should
be provided to everyone at a fair price
have long been used to resist marketisation of the
water supply and sewerage domain. In sum, both on practical grounds and on grounds of
principle, ``commercializing water is ... invariably fraught with difficulty'' (page 33).
Even so, the architects of water privatisation in England and Wales, drawing on the recent
experience of other public utility privatisations in Britain, felt they could make a market in water
supply and treatment work. After two introductory chapters in which she establishes the aims
and theoretical perspective of the book (more on the latter below), Bakker describes the
trajectory of British water management from the late 18th century to today. In fascinating
detail, chapter 3 traces the evolution of British water supply from a patchwork of private
networks through municipalisation (up to 1945) through to full nationalisation in 1974. During
this far-from-smooth transition from the private to the (Keynesian) state sphere, water was
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redefined as an entitlement to be enjoyed by all citizens, not a commodity to be traded.
Cross-subsidies between the ten British and Welsh regional water authorities became the norm,
as did fairly heavy national state intervention into how these authorities discharged their
duties. However, by the 1980s, Bakker argues, the regional water supply authorities faced both
a fiscal and an environmental crisis. Maintaining extensive water supply networks is mind-
bogglingly expensive and in the postwar years an increasingly cash-strapped British state
starved the water sector of money
both directly (through restricting government loans and
grants) and indirectly (by holding down the water rates charged to citizens). The environmental
consequences, not surprisingly, were increased rates of water loss (through leaks in pipes, for
example) and declining water quality. The national state, in the form of its water authorities,
thus faced a legitimitation crisis as it became increasingly unable to deliver a public good at
a fair price and of requisite quality. In this situation, Bakker argues, the Thatcher administra-
tions were left with two options: either sharply increase water rates and public borrowing to
finance the necessary investment in water infrastructure; or make water supply more efficient
by (re)introducing markets. After an initial attempt to do the latter (the 1983 Water Act), 1989 saw
the sale of virtually all public water supply assets to private firms. The architects of this
privatisation argued that the market could do what the state could not: that is, deliver water in
sufficient volume and quality while reinvesting in the supply and sewage infrastructure, yet
without exorbitant rises in water charges for firms and consumers. The idea was that the
central state, aside from divesting financial and legal responsibility for water supply, would
also abandon heavy command-and-control regulation in favour of a `light touch'. A functional
separation was made by the Conservatives between economic, product quality, and environ-
mental regulation [enacted by the Office of Water Services (OFWAT), the Drinking Water
Inspectorate, and the Environmental Agency, respectively].
How, then, does one make a market in water supply and sewerage services? Bakker distin-
guishes between privatisation and commercialisation. Both, she rightly argues, are required to
turn public assets into privately tradeable commodities. Privatisation is a necessary but not
sufficient condition for markets to work. Commercialisation was the sufficient condition in the
case of water supply and treatment. This is discussed in chapter 4 as a threefold process of
water valuation, the creation of price signals, and the introduction of competition. The first
involves techniques (such as contingent valuation) that will accurately measure the true value
of water in terms both of the benefits it brings and of the full costs of water production (that
is, positive and negative externalities). The second involves creating effective means to commu-
nicate the true cost of water to consumers (for example, through metering) so that water goes
to the highest value uses. Competition, meanwhile, involved the creation of mechanisms to
prevent the new private water companies acting as regional monopolies. Given the `uncooper-
ative' status of water, a great deal of central government ingenuity went into commercialising
the water sector. A price-cap system was introduced from the start, forcing private water
companies to make profits through efficiency gains not price rises. Complex measures were
also implemented to challenge the de facto monopoly each private water utility enjoys (such as
`inset appointments').
One of Bakker's key points is that water privatisation and commercialisation involved
greater-than-anticipated state regulation from the start, a situation which has only got worse
since 1989. As she explains, ``rather than perceiving privatization as an act of deregulation
attention is brought to bear on the ways in which the state ... changes the nature of its interaction
with citizens and corporation'' (pages 36 ^ 37). Privatisation is thus, Bakker rightly argues, a
process of reregulation and one that might involve heavy state intervention. The elaborate regula-
tory framework established in 1989 was necessitated by the need of the British state to fulfil
multiple obligations: to people as consumers, to people as citizens, to water companies and
their shareholders, and to the environment itself. In part 2 of her book (chapters 5^ 7), Bakker
assesses the effects of water privatisation and commercialisation on consumers, the natural
environment, and the water companies involved. In so doing, she shows why the British state
has had to regulate the water market more heavily as time has passed by.
She begins with the (in)famous `Yorkshire drought' of 1995^ 96, when Yorkshire Water Services
(YWS, the private company involved) imposed heavy water use restrictions on its customers.
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In both real and symbolic terms, the drought constituted a crisis for the market-environmentalist
model of water management just six years after divestiture. Despite a wet winter, YWS was
unable to meet basic water demand, yet its share price and profits remained high throughout
the drought period. Outraged, consumer organisations called for action, and two independent
inquiries followed, leading, in turn, to longer term changes in how the water industry was
regulated. Though she argues that the drought was a highly overdetermined event, Bakker
identifies two basic causes: failings in the system of economic regulation (administered by
Ofwat) and the tension private firms face between fulfilling shareholder obligations and fulfil-
ling those of customers. YWS's accumulation strategies, in tandem with `governance failure',
were key determinants of the Yorkshire drought. In Bakker's words,``The drought was authorless,
unintended, yet nonetheless had a kind of economic intelligibility; it was, in a limited sense, the
least-cost option for YWS given the constraints of the post-privatization regulatory `game'''
(page 121).
If the Yorkshire drought inaugurated the process of `regulatory creep' that defied the Con-
servatives' original `light touch' vision, the everyday effects of water privatisation on consumers
have been no less important. In chapter 6 Bakker shows that, even though water quality (and
the infrastructure supporting it) has improved since 1989, so too has sociospatial inequity
among consumers. The ability-to-pay principle, though it has not supplanted the principle of
universal entitlement, has certainly weakened it. Again, this has forced central government's
hand because the disjuncture between record profits among water firms and `water poverty'
among low-income groups has been deemed politically unacceptable.
In chapter 7 Bakker looks at the effects of regulatory creep on the private water firms'
strategies. One of the problems these companies face is stagnant demand in an industry that is
more heavily regulated than was anticipated back in 1989. In this context, Bakker argues that
firms have done three things: diversify (growing through takeovers and mergers or expanding
into other utility sectors); vertically disintegrate (unbundling firm operations and concentrating
on least-regulated activities); and internationalise (operating water supply and sewerage services
overseas). Each of these strategies, Bakker argues, is an imperfect response to the fundamental
problem of privatised water supply: the problem of ``generating sufficient revenues from [a] ...
regulated business in a capital-intensive industry with stagnant demand and limited market
growth potential ... for a partially non-substitutable resource essential for life'' (page 178).
The final chapter effectively synthesises what has gone before. Bakker reflects on the success
or failure of water privatisation, possible future scenarios, and the wider (ir)relevance of the
`British model'. Her pragmatic and nondogmatic conclusion is that neither the state-hydraulic
nor market-environmentalist paradigms are unalloyed goods. She argues that, whatever model
is preferred, the central state will necessarily have to ensure that the contradictory needs of
water firms, water customers, and the environment are somehow balanced. Judged on its own
terms, water privatisation in England and Wales has failed to match its architects' original
vision. Regulation, as Bakker well shows, has ensured that elements of the state-hydraulic
regime live on even today. The future is unlikely to see a full return of water supply to state
control. But it could, Bakker argues, see forms of management (such as mutualisation) that
soften the potential antagonism between the profit motive, environmental sustainability, and
consumer rights.
What can readers learn from An Uncooperative Commodity? Academics, policymakers,
and practitioners involved in water management should read Bakker's book for two reasons.
First, they will get an authoritative and comprehensive account of how English and Welsh water
is managed, written in a language they can understand. Second, they will encounter a qualified
critique of the market-environmentalist paradigm that leaves no doubt as to its impracticality
and undesirability as a resource management model. For people like myself, concerned to
develop a coherent critical theory of capitalism ^environment relationships, Bakker's book is,
again, doubly instructive. It not only `operationalises' ideas developed by Marxian theorists
such as Ted Benton, James O'Connor, Neil Smith, and David Harvey; but in so doing, it makes
a powerful case for a multidimensional understanding of resource use in capitalist societies.
Bakker's `political ecology of resource use' [or what she also calls a ``political economy of
socio-environmental change'' (page 18)], is, like the best analyses in the tradition of `Third World
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political ecology', all about structured complexity. Her analysis links necessary with contingent
factors, humans with nonhumans, and local with nonlocal factors. If I might be parochial for
a second, it is an analysis that gives the discipline of geography a good name. Few people
working in the social and environmental sciences can do the kind of rigorously `joined-up'
empirically rich and theoretically informed
to be found in An Uncooperative Commodity.
Without every appearing to have a superficial grasp of the issues, Bakker has mastered ideas
and arguments from an astonishing range of academic and policy arenas.
In sum, Karen Bakker has written the definitive book on the commodification of water.
An Uncooperative Commodity is authoritative, thoroughly researched, elegantly structured, and
has a clear message running throughout: namely, that taking water out of the public domain
comes at a high price, whether judged by the standards of the market-environmental paradigm
or the state-hydraulic regime it replaced in England and Wales. The book is rare in that it
speaks to several different audiences simultaneously. To recap: people in the water industry will
find in Bakker's monograph a fair-minded study of the pros and cons of privatisation; resource
and environmental economists will find themselves confronted with an empirically powerful
critique of their credo; and political economists-cum-ecologists within and beyond geography
will find here a superb grounding of ideas developed by Marxian theorists. The only audience
that will not benefit from this book are undergraduate students, because it is too demanding
to be read cover to cover. Even so, I imagine parts of the text could be recommended reading
in final year courses on the political economy of resource use and environmental change. I will
certainly be using sections of An Uncooperative Commodity in my graduate classes. Even if you
cannot afford to buy this book yourself, make sure you order it for your library. It is a
monograph to both learn from and to emulate.
Noel Castree
Department of Geography, University of Manchester, Manchester M13 9PL, England
The aesthetics of free speech: rethinking the public sphere by J M Roberts; Palgrave Macmillan,
Basingstoke, Hants, 2003, 277 pages, »50.00 (US $69.95) ISBN 1 4039 05665
Nothing deserves more attention at this time of fragmented lives and compulsory globalisation
than the way we communicate within our working environments and in our daily social perform-
ance. Not even a careful planning of budgets, nor a detailed analysis of risks, and, definitely, not
the sole attention to a particular firm's corporate image. Nothing is in the end more relevant
from the point of view of establishing or maintaining a long-term business than the ways in
which we expose what we think at a given moment and, even more, than the ways in which we
understand the other party's utterances or statements.
Philosophers, sociologists, and linguists have been paying attention to these matters for a long
enough time to have given birth to a complex terminology full of levels of coherence and key
words (diglossia,heteroglossia,meta-utterance,accent,monologic,communicative action, and, in
classic rhetoric, verisimilitude and decorum). However, these terms and levels of coherence do
not always make sense to students or professionals interested in broadening their knowledge
of such a universal field as the theory of communication should be. Grounded on authorities
such as Kant, Marx, Mill, or Habermas, Roberts's The Aesthetics of Free Speech appears as a
very lucid, though intellectually accessible, tool both for academics interested in the social,
economic, and political aspects of communication, and for the general public.
The subtitle Rethinking the Public Sphere leads readers to one of the most appealing
aspects of this book: Roberts's theory of what he calls, in his Marxist inherited way, free
speech, derives from an in-depth analysis of the history of communication, thereby placing in
context the above-mentioned collection of key words and concepts. From the description of
the capitalist aesthetic and its supposedly typical humiliation of popular culture to the study
of postmodern aesthetics, Roberts argues that the aesthetisation of life has always been an
integral feature of capitalist social relations. The decline of the traditional social order and its
fixed hierarchies and overlapping allegiances, as well as the appearance of a more dynamic
social and sexual division of labour, should therefore lead to a nonhumiliating way of discourse
and to the disappearance of the artificial aesthetics which used to be typical of capitalism.
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Whether these two goals are being achieved in this first decade of the 21st century, or whether
the old forms of humiliation and artificial aesthetisation are being reversed at the same
pace as the once humiliated social layers gain access to power seems not so easy to elucidate.
However, Roberts's study does provide its readers with the vocabulary and the information
necessary to understand the state of this question.
While the social reversal expressed through discourse is slowly taking place in Western
societies, excitable speech, once associated with the vulgar utterances of the mob (short for
mobile vulgus,themovable or excitable crowd) has invaded everyday language, including working
speech and discourse. Beyond the conflicts aroused by the not always controlled explosion of
excitable speech, the new ``bourgeois aesthetic defines each person as an abstract, atomistic,
universal, and unified Subject who exists initially on an equal playing field with other individuals''
(page 88). Through the elaboration of updated communication techniques, the new bourgeoisie
should work towards the resolution of conflicts between different social and public spheres.
As Roberts observes, far from the old capitalist aesthetisation, the new communication techniques
sometimes have more to do with conflict and collision of different opinions than with forced
harmony and paternalism (pages 104 ^ 105). The elimination of prejudice and dogma becomes
necessary when it comes to leaving behind the old truths in order to gain access to the new
transitory certitudes useful in understanding each other in our often too provisional working
and private environments.
Once he has established the philosophical and sociological grounds for the analysis of post-
modern discourse, Roberts's study culminates with a theory of free speech in eleven points
which I will very briefly summarise here:
``Free speech is not a necessary characteristic of capitalist societies but arrives in a political
form only with the emergence of the capitalist state ... '' (page 254);
``Free speech, as a meta-utterance, assumes the status of a background ideology for public
dialogue and is present in every social form ... '' (page 255);
``Free speech is ... multiaccentual to the extent that its meaning is derived from a struggle to
`accent' its ideological form through different contradictory `personalities' in the capitalist
public sphere'' (page 255).
``Free speech is ... a distinct ideological utterance with a social form which can be appro-
priated by any speech community and invested with new meaning depending upon themes
evident in a social form in question'' (page 255).
``Free speech is ... transformed into the right to publicly challenge the dialogic, `uni-accentual'
and `monologic' positioning of individuals within a particular social form and thus entails
the duty upon those imposing a uniaccentual discourse to hear the multi-accentual dialogue
of those individuals'' (page 255).
``Free speech as a meta-utterance is bound up with a broader public discussion about the
extension of certain powers and immunities within a social form in question ... '' (page 256).
`` ... the capitalist state through legal discourse and governance has a duty to regulate utter-
ances performed through free speech by redefining the meaning of free speech within
particular public spheres'' (page 257).
Despite its open end, and regardless of whether potential readers will agree or disagree
with Roberts's conclusions, his is a very valuable study of questions which are already and will
definitely be some of the main subjects of interest for those paying attention to the human
side of capitalism over the coming decades.
¨az Marroqu|¨n, Universidad Complutense de Madrid, 28040 Madrid, Spain
Environmental governance reconsidered: challenges, choices, and opportunities edited by R F Durant,
D J Fiorino, R O'Leary; MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, 2004, 560 pages, $70.00 cloth, $35.00 paper
(»45.95, »22.95) ISBN 0 262 042185, 0 262 54174 2
Environmental governance transformations have attracted considerable academic interest during
the last two decades.The bulk of studies focus on the social, economic, political, and environmental
conditions that foster the emergence and evolution of alternative, as opposed to traditional,
624 Reviews
command-and-control policy, instruments, and steering modes in the quest for more efficiency,
effectiveness, legitimacy, and flexibility in environmental policymaking. Relevant reforms in the
USA and in some European countries, entailing the introduction of market-based incentives, self-
regulation or coregulation of private and public actors, and the delegation of policy formulation
and implementation tasks to new decentralised public bodies, date back to the 1980s. However,
few systematic attempts have been made so far to assess empirically the extent to which these
novel regulatory approaches lead to effective policy outcomes.
The collective volume edited by Durant, Fiorino, and O'Leary, strives to fill this gap by
offering a comprehensive, conceptually grounded, interdisciplinary assessment of the promise
versus performance and the viability of major reform initiatives in environmental governance.
Instead of abiding uncritically by conventional beliefs regarding the inadequacy of traditional
command-and-control regulatory approaches to deal with the complex and multifaceted nature
of environmental problems, the authors adopt a rather pragmatic approach grounded in a
results-based evaluation of current reform initiatives. They analyse the experience from thirteen
reforms of environmental governance. These cover a wide range of themes organised around
three interrelated premises of administrative action. First, there is the need to reconceptualise
the aims, organising principles, and values of environmental governance in order to promote
sustainability (Paehlke), precautionary approaches to technological innovations (Durant and
Boodphetcharat), the establishment of adequate regulatory regimes at the global and regional
levels of governance (Bryner), and the search for effective solutions to common resource problems
facing local communities (Schlager). Second, there is the need to reconnect with the various
stakeholders, especially those mostly affected by costly environmental regulations and intended
or unintended barriers to free trade stemming from stringent regional environmental regulatory
regimes. This section critically assesses reform initiatives seeking to promote deliberate democ-
racy (Meadowcroft), civic environmentalism (DeWitt), and environmental justice (Ringquist),
as well as the adoption of innovative solutions in balancing damages to property rights from
regulatory undertakings (Wise) and mechanisms of effective environmental conflict resolution
(O'Leary, Natatchi, and Bingham). The final part discusses need to redefine administrative
rationality in ways that facilitate stakeholder-sensitive and geographically focused regulatory
solutions through the strengthening of devolution initiatives (Scheberle), the enhancement of
flexibility in decisionmaking (Fiorino), pollution-prevention initiatives (Geiser), and third-party
auditing of environmental managing systems (Mazurek).
The contributions identify a number of results-based criteria for evaluating and improving
the performance of novel regulatory approaches based on nonhierarchical steering mechanisms
between stakeholders and the limited use of inflexible uniformly binding legal instruments.
However, they do not reject the power of normative values and ideas that shape the actors'
perceptions of environmental governance. In fact, the reader will find startling the delicate
balance kept in the various contributions between rudiments from the realpolitik of environment-
al governance and normative ideas about democratic legitimacy and environmental justice.
Yet the most significant contribution of this volume to the literature on environmental regulatory
regimes is the attempt to offer a theoretically and conceptually grounded account of cutting-edge,
thematically integrated, empirical work that departs notably from the plethora of interpretative
case studies and `best practice' reports often found in the literature.
The authors, all distinguished academic scholars and policy practitioners, draw predomi-
nantly on the US experience. Although this focus offers a valuable asset, especially to European
scholars and policymakers eager to draw lessons from the experiences of more mature federal
systems, a wider comparative approach would considerably enrich our current understanding of
the scope of conditions that facilitate the emergence and future viability of novel regulatory
approaches. New regulatory approaches are often diffused through voluntary and/or coercive
mechanisms of learning and mimicking in very diverse societies, legal systems, cultures, econo-
mies, and polities. In effect, a challenge for the future research agenda is to assess their
effectiveness in countries that lack domestic policy traditions in nonhierarchical, participatory
modes of environmental governance or struggle with preventive institutional preconditions,
such as weak civil society law and environmental awareness of stakeholders.
Reviews 625
The reader is compensated with a rich, systematic account of a wide range of testable
hypotheses regarding the scope conditions that facilitate or hinder the application of each of
the thirteen reform initiatives. These qualities assure the diachronic character of this contribu-
tion as a standard reference point for future research in environmental governance systems.
Students will find beneficial the comfort of a single, thematically integrated compendium of
the latest theoretical debates and reforms in environmental governance. Policy practitioners,
environmental activists, and the business community will find an indispensable tool for reflection
on the dilemmas surrounding their daily bustles to balance imperatives of effective compliance
with environmental product and process standards with sensitivity to local demographic,
economic, institutional, and environmental idiosyncrasies.
Charalampos Koutalakis
Otto-Suhr-Institut fur Politikwissenschaft, Freie Universita
«t Berlin, Berlin 14195, Germany
Political globalization : state, power and social forces by M Ougaard; Palgrave Macmillan,
Basingstoke, Hants, 2004, 236 pages, »45.00 (US $65.00) ISBN 033396315 6
Globalization has become a recurrent theme in the international politics literature. In the early
1990s the end of the socialist bloc signalled, to some authors, the beginning of an era marked by
increasing interdependence, in which nation-states would play a minor role.
More than ten years later, we notice important differences in approaching globalization,
many of which are observed in Morten Ougaard's latest work, Political Globalization: State,
Power and Social Forces. Globalization is not a synonym for peace and cooperation, as predicted
by more optimistic views. It is not an age of chaos either, as demonstrated by the increasing
number of institutions and organizations aimed at regulating political life at different levels.
Above all, it seems more complex than what everybody thought fifteen years ago.
From the academic point of view, there is the difficulty of treating globalization as one
variable, because of its various dimensions and implications to societal and political life. By the
same token, the concept is too vast to be addressed by one theoretical perspective alone.
The present literature comprises a wide range of approaches that analyze, criticize, challenge,
or recommend policies to deal with the many `globalizations' going on. On the one hand, it
gives the impression that substantive knowledge is not being found in this area. On the other
hand, its complexity poses new questions, and widens research opportunities and claims for
more up-to-date, adequate approaches, methodologies, and political decisions.
Ougaard is well aware of the impossibility of applying one single perspective to this field
of study. So, instead of analyzing different dimensions of gloablization according to one model,
he focuses on certain political aspects, thus benefiting from contributions coming from differ-
ent theoretical orientations. This might prove helpful to students and researchers in related
areas who sometimes struggle to deliminate the approach(es) to be used in their research.
Such options are reflected in the way the book is structured. Those familiar with political
science texts might be more used to reading first a theoretical framework in order to `plunge'
into the empirical part later. Ougaard's book does not follow this order strictly. In fact, general
such as the `opposition' between agency and structure, or between ideas and material
are presented at the beginning of the book. However, each chapter contains both
theoretical discussions and empirical evidence, thus conferring more dynamism to the reading.
How do states and institutions behave and how are they affected by globalization? Global-
ization is not seen as a consequence or a mere research object: it is a complex phenomenon
consisting not only of the structures of today's world society but also of its actors and the
relations between them. In other words, globalization, as discussed in the book, is more than
the spread of capitalism, norm sharing, and homogenization. It is also the extent to which state-
hood has been modified. This highlights the academic contribution made by Nicos Poulantzas,
who conceived the state as a set of institutionalized political arenas consisting also of a legal
order, legitimacy, ideology, and a set of functions. By providing a deeper analysis of each of
the aspects mentioned, Ougaard discusses whether these conceptualizations can be applied
to the global level.
626 Reviews
The conclusion is that, with some adjustments, they can provide leverage to the development
of ``adequate theoretical tools and perspectives'' (page 205). The reason is that, despite the
significant changes brought by governance structures, states are still the driving force of
the process. This holds true even under the present conditions of anarchy
seen here as the
absence of centralized world government. To be more specific, it is the modern capitalist
democracies that, while developing norms and institutions (G7, OECD, FMI), will eventually
bring in other members from the periphery (recently democratized states or emergent markets)
to this society.
An important feature of Ougaard's book is that it does not go around in circles, merely
describing or only superficially tackling aspects of globalization. The focus on some aspects
and institutions allows a deeper analysis of the role played by them, though a considerable
part of the book is quite descriptive. The power exerted by them and also by crucial actors such
as the United States is given a lot of consideration
a dimension that is frequently overlooked
in many globalization studies.
The book gives a good theoretical review. It would seem to be more valuable to those
interested in the role played by institutions and modern capitalist states in the present global
political context. Despite the good introduction to globalization and politics, the book may
not be best placed to provide a comprehensive overview of the phenomenon or most useful to
those less interested in theoretical debates and authors' contributions to globalization/gover-
nance studies. Another important feature is the price, which could be reviewed. On the other
hand, the book proves quite helpful to the concerns of institutional analysis and research
design, as well as providing inputs about the applicability and limitations of certain theoretical
Tatiana Coutto, European University Institute, Via dei Roccettini 9, Florence, Italy
Corruption, politics and development: the role of the World Bank by H Marquette; Palgrave
Macmillan, Basingstoke, Hants, 2003, 261 pages, »55.00, ISBN 0333999312
Corruption, Politics and Development: The Role of the World Bank joins an increasing body of
work that critiques global developmental institutions, including the International Monetary Fund
and other UN-affiliated agencies.
This book attempts to analyse the nature of anticorruption work embarked on by the World
Bank since its inception. This is a relatively short book, made worse by the fact that notes and
bibliography take up 100 pages of the 261-page book. Excluding the introductory and concluding
chapters, the remaining four substantive chapters have only 140 pages in total.
Very early on, the book identifies the central problematic of the World Bank vis-a
©-vis its
work in anticorruption. The author argues that the World Bank's Articles of Agreement (essen-
tially rules which govern the Bank) ``prohibited it from making decisions based on political
considerations'' (page 1). Anticorruption issues are clearly political and hence the Bank should
not even be involved in such endeavours. At times, this strikes me as unconvincing. Consider-
ing the fact that the Structural Adjustment Programmes which the World Bank enthusiastically
champions cannot but be seen as political through and through, one wonders why it should
feel reigned in by its supposed nonpolitical charter in its anticorruption work. My reservation
arose in part because what the World Bank or the author understands as `political' is never clearly
discussed. Is not neoliberalism, the guiding ethos of the World Bank (page 34), both economic
and sociopolitical?
Nonetheless, the author explains that, notwithstanding its restrictive charter towards anti-
corruption work, the World Bank expanded this agenda for several reasons. These include
``external pressures from donor governments and NGOs'' (page 155) to make sure that aid is
spent justifiably and the attitudinal change of senior World Bank executives towards the issue
of corruption.
Chapter 2, the first substantive chapter, is mainly a historical account of the growth and
development of the World Bank. Although informative, this chapter does not seem to align well
with the themes of corruption, politics, and development until its last few pages when structural
adjustment policies and neoliberalism (pages 32 ^ 38) are described. Chapter 3 documents the
Reviews 627
nascent attempt of the World Bank in addressing corruption and chapter 4 outlines the efforts
of disparate World Bank units in combating corruption. Chapter 5 establishes the need for the
World Bank to rethink its inchoate anticorruption efforts which, the authors argues, is partly
the result of its nonpolitical mandate. It also considers the possibility of letting other aid and
development agencies take up this challenge, including the United States Agency for Interna-
tional Development, the United Nations Development Programme, and Nordic agencies such
as the Danish International Development Agency.
The argument goes that the failures of neoliberal policies are the result of weak or poor
governance which in turn is partly caused by rampant corruption in the countries receiving
aid. Thus, for the author, ``the failure of structural adjustment to bring about the desired
changes was blamed on the inadequacy of recipient government institutions, including a failure
to tackle problems with corruption'' (page 156). This is a potentially tantalizing and provocative
argument which was not followed through in the book. Could this mean that, as with the
supposed lack of `social capital' pointed out in other World Bank publications, the related
problem of `corruption' in aid nations is but an `excuse' which the World Bank uses to blunt the
dismal results of its neoliberal developmental policies?
Although the author points out that the relationship between development and corruption
is complex, this relationship is explored surprisingly late in the book (page 54). More impor-
tantly, for me, one key and fundamental question has not been adequately addressed in the
book. Are corrupt practices embedded in particular countries' sociopolitical structures or is
the involvement of the World Bank
with its million dollars worth of aid ^ loan money
exacerbating factor in worsening corruption? In other words, is `corruption' in a particular
developmental process to blame or is it the nature of that developmental process that is
fundamentally at fault?
This book is well referenced and cites heavily
perhaps too heavily
these secondary sources.
There are, however, instances of typographical errors and unclear prose. For example,``desirable''
is misspelled on page 123. Sentences were also left incomplete (page 146, first sentence) and there
were also instances of vague expressions (page 156, first sentence).
This book deals with themes which are important and relevant at a time when `established'
developmental processes are increasingly problematized. It also appeals to researchers from a
variety of disciplines such as political science, geography, and sociology. However, with better
and tighter organization and editing, this short book could be reproduced as an interesting and
competent journal article. This would not only make for a better, quicker read but more
importantly, save one the »55 that is needed to buy this relatively expensive book.
Harvey Neo, Graduate School of Geography, Clark University, Worcester, MA 01610, USA
Comparative health policy by R H Blank, V Burau; Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke, Hants,
2004, 260 p ages, »55.00 cloth, »17.99 paper (US $75.00, $24.95) ISBN 0 333 98598 2, 0 333 98599 0
As health-care budgets in all developed countries are squeezed between the effects of demography,
technological progress, and increasing public expectations on quality, comparative health policy
is becoming an increasingly important field in the study of public policy. At the same time there
are, thanks to efforts from institutions such as the OECD and the World Health Organisation,
ever-more comparable data available, which enable us to analyse the workings of different health
care systems in a more systematic way.
Comparative Health Policy by Robert H Blank and Viola Burau is a useful contribution
to that literature. It is a textbook in public policy, and offers, according to the text on the
back, ``a broad-ranging introduction to provision, funding and governance in a wide range of
health systems.'' The book is intended primarily for undergraduate students, but should also
be of interest to other audiences such as policymakers or administrators. It is easy to read and
does not require any prior knowledge of the subject matter.
In eight chapters, Bank and Burau cover the most important topics within health policy:
funding and governance, priority setting and resource allocation, the medical profession, long-term
care, and public health. The book starts out with a competent account of all the important
challenges facing health policy in the 21st century. Then the different factors which the authors
628 Reviews
identify as key determinants of public policy in health care are presented. After that the
authors set out to discuss various aspects of health policy as practised in different countries.
Throughout the book, the authors compare and discuss the health-care systems of nine devel-
oped countries (Australia, Germany, Japan, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Sweden, Singapore,
the United Kingdom and the USA) and thus keep the comparative perspective in a very
systematic way.
Overall, the book offers a very well-balanced overview of the most relevant topics in con-
temporary health policy. The cases studied exemplify the full spectrum of variation in health
systems in developed countries throughout the world and the reader gets an accurate picture
of how the different systems work.
Upon reading the book, however, I felt that the authors have put too great an emphasis
on the fine details of the different systems, and have not made a big enough effort to inves-
tigate the causes and effects of different ways of organizing health care. Some general ideas of
the factors which shape health policy are presented in the second chapter, but they hang a bit
loosely and are not really connected with the material in the following chapters.
One thing that is very annoying is that `culture' is used as a black box to explain all
residual variation in health systems. Hence, we are asked to believe that culture explains such
things as the large variation in the proportion of female doctors as well as different emphases
in priority setting. In their willingness to attribute various aspects of health policy to culture,
the authors seem to overlook the fact that the shaping of health-care systems is highly path
dependent and that many fundamental institutional characteristics date back to historical
events that have little or nothing to do with health care or with culture. It is also surprising
that two scholars based in the United Kingdom depict immigration only as a source of cost
hikes and tensions within the health-care system, given that the British NHS would collapse
immediately in the absence of immigrant staff.
Despite these shortcomings, Comparative Health Policy makes pleasant reading. One great
advantage over texts more oriented towards health economics is that the picture is more
complete and that aspects of health care that are not easily assessed in economic terms are
taken into account. Throughout the book, the main text is supplemented by a sequence of
boxes that offer concrete examples of the concepts discussed. And, because the number of cases
studied is so large, it provides a rich source from which to pick examples. One particularly
interesting part is the discussion of how traditional medicine interacts with the Western medical
model in countries such as Japan and Singapore. Here culture obviously does play a role, and
I would liked to have seen the authors expand a bit on this part, because it is a perspective
often overlooked by Western analysts.
In conclusion, Comparative Health Policy offers a good overview of the topic and several
insights into the practical dilemmas faced by policymakers in the field. However, if I were to
teach a course on health policy to undergraduate students, I would certainly complement this
book with a more theoretically oriented textbook. Otherwise, there is a great risk that the students
would not see the wood for all the trees.
Martin Karlsson
Faculty of Actuarial Science and Statistics, Cass Business School, City University, London
EC1Y 8TZ, England
Paths to a new Europe by P Dukes; Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke, Hants, 2004, 570 pages,
»49.50 cloth, »16.99 paper (US $75.00, $24.95) ISBN 14039 0248 8, 1 4039 0249 6
Although the title seems to hint otherwise, this book is a retelling of the classic story of Europe's
singular failure to maintain peace and prosperity by balancing the power of states. The genre is
thus political history, with Dukes covering 350 years of state rivalry, suspicion, and conflict, in
fifteen tidy and comprehensive chapters of around thirty pages each. The point of departure is
the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648, understood to be the first significant attempt to regulate the
constant friction between European states.Thereafter the ``basic story is one of power relationships,
and therefore primarily political'' (page xii).
Reviews 629
The paradox Dukes highlights is that war and diplomacy, both within and beyond the
continent itself, proved the ineluctably interlocked nature of the major European states despite
their constant pursuit of sovereign independence. In his model, international politics is a roller
coaster of power, so that when ``Sweden was moving down ... Brandenburg-Prussia was
embarking on its ascent'' (page 42). Accordingly, the narrative focuses mostly on a succession
of wars, secret pacts, peace negotiations, treaties, and accompanying boundary redrawing. To
guide the reader through the implications of each new reconfiguration of the territorial division
of Europe, the appendix contains sixteen invaluable maps.
Although Dukes refers to the system of ``political algebra'' (page 78) devised by an 18th-
century Austrian chancellor, the story that emerges is reminiscent of a game of poker. Kings,
emperors, presidents, and prime ministers, none could ever adequately appreciate the possible
consequences of their decisions as they could not anticipate the reactions of their rivals.
In effect, they were always attempting the impossible. They tried to cooperate and minimise
conflict at the same time as constantly pursuing national or dynastic grandeur in an inter-
national system in which gains necessarily came at the expense of someone else. Only after
1945, effectively year zero of a new order, was this balance of power system forsaken, and even
then Western Europe
for the first time
found itself trapped as a periphery in a new hegemonic
balancing act.
Unfortunately, Dukes does not dwell on the significance of coercive attempts to overcome
this system of organised rivalry and violently integrate the states of Europe, a goal pursued
by Louis XIV, Napoleon, and Hitler. The major headache for the architects of the postwar
European project has been precisely the difficulty of finding a voluntary alternative for integra-
tion and, increasingly, how to sell this strategy to national electorates. The narrative seldom
pauses to develop explicit historical analysis, which will make it difficult for the unfamiliar
reader to appreciate Dukes's implicit thesis that European history is a dialectic of conflict and
For Dukes the symbol of this dialectic in the industrial age was the railway, for in politics,
society, and the economy ``the `iron way' added a new dimension'' (page 289) that could be
negative as much as positive. It facilitated commerce and communication, and began the blur-
ring of the boundaries between foreign and domestic spheres. But it was also an agent of
imperial expansion and, as the Great War proved, a means of fighting war with a new ferocity.
The ghastly stalemate on the western front was possible only because railways ``gave the advan-
tage to the defending side, since they could move troops to any sector under pressure before
breakthrough could be achieved'' (pages 329 ^ 330). Always sensitive to the terrible cost to
citizens and soldiers that came with every new conflagration, Dukes understandably avoids
Whiggishness and is also wary of self-congratulation. This extends to his explanation for
Europe's one-time dominance of the globe. In his assessment, Europe's imperial might ``did
not stem from moral or cultural superiority, but from social and political systems capable of
generating the appropriate measure of force'' (page 88).
Written by a specialist on Russian history, the great merit of this historical survey is that
from the start it fully incorporates Russia into the historical narrative. It is also no mean feat
in a work of this breadth to have avoided historical howlers. He may erroneously refer to
Jacques Necker's predecessors as ``director-generals of France'' (page 113) when in fact they were
an office denied to Necker in name by virtue of his Protestantism
this cannot detract from the overall excellence of this work as a source of reference. Owing to
its preference for historical survey over analytical explanation, this book is best used as a
reference guide for following interstate conflict and rivalry in a particularly complicated era
of European history. In this capacity it will be of special interest for undergraduate and
postgraduate students of international relations studying the zero-sum game of international
Andrew Glencross
European University Institute, San Domenico di Fiesole (FI), Italy
630 Reviews
Greenhouse economics: value and ethics by C L Spash; Routledge, London, 2002, 298 pages,
»75.00 (US $110.00) ISBN 0 41512718 1
Notwithstanding the plethora of books that have been written on the environment, Clive Spash's
book, Greenhouse Economics is an eloquently written, balanced, superbly documented, and
comprehensive `scientific' overview of climate change and greenhouse effects. Despite the seem-
ingly narrow theme of its title, the book goes beyond greenhouse economics. Spash demonstrates
that environmental issues observe no boundaries and he discusses many interrelated issues: the
hole in the ozone layer, agricultural impacts, urban smog, sea-level rises, water deficiency,
desertification, global energy, and ecosystems. Readers who may be put off by the `economic'
contextualization, will be pleasantly surprised reading Greenhouse Economics. Instead of reading
like a number-crunching economic endorsement of the polluter-pays thesis, there is a refreshing
approach in Spash's discussions of the ``inter-relationships between economics, environment and
society'' (page xiii) within an ``interdisciplinary perspective which pulls together science, econom-
ics and ethics'' (page 22) which deals not only with economic issues but also with broader
scientific, ethical, moral, perception, and value choices.
Greenhouse Economics reflects a long gestation of a century of well-grounded `scientific' and
economic research. The book leaves the reader with little doubt about the past, present, and future
prospects of climate change and greenhouse issues. Given the importance of climate change
to the global community, Greenhouse Economics has provided neither an alarmist nor a dooms-
day prognosis of the issues. With deft erudition, level-headed arguments, and cautious reflection,
Spash provides insights into the highly complex and difficult to predict subject matter.
The key issue with which the book grapples and seems unable to define categorically is
the extent of the anthropogenic contribution to global warming and the greenhouse effect.
Human-induced climate change is defined as ``a consequence of unintentionally playing around
with global systems'' (page 250). The moot question is to what extent have human activities
added to climatic changes resulting from natural cycles of glaciation (80 000 to 100000 year
spans) and interglacial periods (10000 to 15 000 year spans) (page 48). Even in areas such as
the relationship between CO
and the ``infinite carbon sinks'' of the deep oceans (page 114),
little research has been done. Indeed, Spash leaves the reader in little doubt that predicting
climate change (using general circulation modules
GCMs) and dealing with greenhouse effects
is a major research undertaking (over 100 independent studies are involved) with many doubts
and debates. Despite the use of supercomputers that churn out 200 000 equations and half a
billion operations per second (page 111), GCMs have serious limitations in evaluating climatic
change and hence no study can make accurate long-term predictions.
If there is some scope for criticism of this book, it lies in the fact that, given the heavy
emphasis of anthropogenic influences on climatic change and greenhouse effects, the book
remains silent about earlier studies on the human impact on the environment (Carson, 1962;
Marsh, 1965; Thomas et al, 1956). With its litany of impressive statistics, data, tables, and
graphs, I would have also preferred debate and discussion on BjÖrn Lomborg's (2001) contro-
versial book, The Skeptical Environmentalist, which unfortunately is not even mentioned. The
confusion amongst not only the general public but even government officials and researchers
is whether global warming and the greenhouse effects are overplayed.
Spash deals with all the inner debates that surround the predictive nature of climate
change studies which are expressed in notions of `bad' and `good' science and scientists (pages
141 ^ 143), the dangers of prediction revolving around whether science is delivered ``objectively''
or interpreted as ``subjective probabilities'' (pages 144 ^ 145), and the issues of risk, uncertainty,
and ignorance at both the scientific and the social science levels that need to be recognized in
formulating policies, evaluating costs, and encouraging public debate (page 146).
Despite the book's `economic' title, Greenhouse Economics isfarfromanendorsementof
environmental economics. Throughout the discussion of economic theories and concepts, Spash
provides a litany of criticisms and reasons for the inadequacy of current environmentally
related economic theories that is welcome news for environmentalists. He categorically argues
that economics has failed to ``address the long term adequately because it fails to account for
strong uncertainty'' (page 266). Specifically, he notes how economics tries to ``describe human-
decision-making in a rigid model of rationality where value conflict is reduced to risk-taking
Reviews 631
and trade-off'' (page 252). On the other hand, the ethical concepts of applied philosophers are
reduced by economists ``to mere shadows of their original'' (page 233). With regard to the
long-term impacts of climate change and greenhouse effects, Spash states that mainstream
economics cannot deal with these issues because the discipline does not ``have any conception
of history, the past or process, so that the present is taken as the definitive point'' (page 225).
Spash also criticizes economists for not considering the ethical implications in the ``discount
rate'' (pages 203^ 209) in calculating the future consequences of the greenhouse effect.
Indeed, the economic emphasis of climate change seems rather US-centric and displaced.
Spash devotes a lot of attention to the economic losses in the USA (estimated at between
US $17 billion and $108 billion) arising from global warming and possible sea-level rises and
leaves one wondering whether this is more important than the large possible loss of human
lives (estimated at between 92 and 118 million people) in Africa, Asia, and the Pacific Islands.
Indeed, despite the global perspective in the book, there are very few data that deal with the
climatic change impacts on populous countries like China, India, and Indonesia.
Although Greenhouse Economics unfortunately did not engage in debate on the Kyoto
Protocol and the US refusal to be a party to it, the book is the best defense as to why
countries should sign the Kyoto Protocol. Although criticisms against the US government and
its anti-Kyoto business backers are raised (pages 251, 254), the more troubling issue for the
global community is Spash's assertion that the emissions reductions proposed by the Kyoto
protocol are ``too small to prevent increasing atmospheric concentrations'' of greenhouse gases
(page 251). Whether from a social science or science viewpoint, I strongly recommend this
book to fellow scholars who want a comprehensive overview of climate change, the greenhouse
effects, and their impacts.
Victor Savage
Department of Geography, National University of Singapore, Kent Ridge, Singapore 117570
Carson R, 1962 Silent Spring (Houghton Mifflin, Boston, MA)
Lomborg B, 2001 The Skeptical Environmentalist (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge)
Marsh G, 1965 Man and Nature or Physical Geography as Modified by Human Nature (Belknap
Press, Cambridge, MA)
Thomas W L, Sauer C O, Bates M, Mumford L (Eds),1956 Man's Role in Changing the Face of
the Earth (University of Chicago Press, Chicago, IL)
Books received
All books received by the journal for possible review are now listed on the Environment and
Planning website:
All books for review should be sent to the publishers marked for the attention of the reviews
editor. Inclusion in the list of books received does not imply or preclude a full review. The
opinions given in these reviews are those of the reviewer alone and do not necessarily represent
the views of the editors or publishers.
632 Reviews
... I've praised Prudham's book fulsomely, largely on the grounds that it offers a coherent and comprehensive investigative framework, one that is transportable to resource-producing regions outside the Pacific Northwest. In this regard, Knock on Wood takes its place alongside two other recent magisterial analyses of capitalism and nature on the Pacific seaboard, both by Berkeley geographers: namely, Henderson's already mentioned book and Walker's (2004) The Conquest of Bread [I would also add Bakker's (2004) An Uncooperative Commodity, as reviewed by Castree (2005)]. If First World political ecology is to be more than an ersatz version of its Third World counterpart, then more ambitious and original work in this vein is required. ...
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Bjørn Lomborg, a former member of Greenpeace, challenges widely held beliefs that the world environmental situation is getting worse and worse in his new book, The Skeptical Environmentalist. Using statistical information from internationally recognized research institutes, Lomborg systematically examines a range of major environmental issues that feature prominently in headline news around the world, including pollution, biodiversity, fear of chemicals, and the greenhouse effect, and documents that the world has actually improved. He supports his arguments with over 2500 footnotes, allowing readers to check his sources. Lomborg criticizes the way many environmental organizations make selective and misleading use of scientific evidence and argues that we are making decisions about the use of our limited resources based on inaccurate or incomplete information. Concluding that there are more reasons for optimism than pessimism, he stresses the need for clear-headed prioritization of resources to tackle real, not imagined, problems. The Skeptical Environmentalist offers readers a non-partisan evaluation that serves as a useful corrective to the more alarmist accounts favored by campaign groups and the media. Bjørn Lomborg is an associate professor of statistics in the Department of Political Science at the University of Aarhus. When he started to investigate the statistics behind the current gloomy view of the environment, he was genuinely surprised. He published four lengthy articles in the leading Danish newspaper, including statistics documenting an ever-improving world, and unleashed the biggest post-war debate with more than 400 articles in all the major papers. Since then, Lomborg has been a frequent participant in the European debate on environmentalism on television, radio, and in newspapers.
  • References Carson
References Carson R, 1962 Silent Spring (Houghton Mifflin, Boston, MA)
  • B Lomborg
Lomborg B, 2001 The Skeptical Environmentalist (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge)
  • G Marsh
Marsh G, 1965 Man and Nature or Physical Geography as Modified by Human Nature (Belknap Press, Cambridge, MA)
All books for review should be sent to the publishers marked for the attention of the reviews editor. Inclusion in the list of books received does not imply or preclude a full review
  • W L Thomas
  • C O Sauer
  • M Bates
  • L Mumford
Thomas W L, Sauer C O, Bates M, Mumford L (Eds), 1956 Man's Role in Changing the Face of the Earth (University of Chicago Press, Chicago, IL) Books received All books received by the journal for possible review are now listed on the Environment and Planning website: All books for review should be sent to the publishers marked for the attention of the reviews editor. Inclusion in the list of books received does not imply or preclude a full review. The opinions given in these reviews are those of the reviewer alone and do not necessarily represent the views of the editors or publishers.