What’s Public About Public Services?

Perspectives in Global Development: Spring 2023 Seminar Series


What is the meaning of ‘public’ and how does it shape our understanding of public services? This talk examines the history of this question, highlighting the limits of publicness in market economies while also exploring opportunities for non-marketized public alternatives and the potential for building a robust ‘pro-public’ movement. Learn more about David McDonald’s work in his new book, Meanings of Public and the Future of Public Services.

About the speaker

David McDonald is a Professor of Global Development Studies at Queen’s University, Canada, and Director of the Municipal Services Project. His research revolves around debates over public versus private service delivery (with a focus on water, electricity and health care), but encompasses a broad spectrum of related questions on urbanization, environmental justice and uneven development. Much of this research has been conducted through the Municipal Services Project, which McDonald founded and has been co-director of since 2000. The focus of this project is ‘alternatives to privatization’, with research partners in Africa, Asia, Latin America and Europe. The project works with academics, social movements, labour unions and community groups in an effort to deepen our grassroots engagement and create research products that are relevant and useful to the communities and organizations most affected by these debates.

About the seminar series

The Perspectives in Global Development seminars are held Wednesdays from 12:25 – 1:15 p.m. eastern time during the semester. The series will be presented in a hybrid format with some speakers on campus and others appearing via Zoom. All seminars are shown in Emerson Hall 135. Students, faculty and the general public are welcome to attend. The series is co-sponsored by the Department of Global Development, the Department of Natural Resources and the Environment, the Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management, and the School of Integrative Plant Science as part of courses GDEV 4961, AEM 4961, NTRES 4961, GDEV 6960, AEM 6960, and NTRES 6960.

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