January 23, 2013

Vol. 28 , No. 07   


View Entire Issue (Vol. 28 , No. 07)


PHI BETA KAPPA VISITING SCHOLAR

Rethinking the World Water Problem
JOHN AGNEW
FRIDAY, FEBUARY 1, 2013
LUNCHEON 11:30 a.m.; LECTURE 12:00 p.m.

Access to potable water is frequently said to be the defining world crisis of the twenty-first century. The argument is usually framed in terms of either direct environmental constraints or various totalistic views of how “the political” determines outcomes. There is little or no scope for the agency of practical politics. Many commentators tend to be dismissive of the possibilities of democratic politics to ever resolve “crises” such as those of water provision, in part because of views of scientific expertise that devalue popular participation in decisions about “technical” matters such as water quality and distribution. Such dismissal also has much to do with a more generalized denigration of politics. Politics (the art of political deliberation, negotiation, and compromise) needs defending against its critics and many of its practitioners. Showing how politics is at work around the world in managing water problems and identifying the challenges that water problems pose for politics provides a retort to those who can only envisage inevitable destruction or a totalistic political panacea as the outcomes of “the crisis of the century.”

See previous article, Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar.