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Internationalisation of public services: a social network analysis of global ownership

Internationalisation of public services: a social network analysis of global ownership

Popov, Vladimir (2010) Internationalisation of public services: a social network analysis of global ownership. PhD thesis, University of Greenwich.

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Globalisation is a widely used but much contested concept. This contestation has a large variety of dimensions and on-going debates. One of the debates focuses on economic globalisation and a rebalancing of the relations between the private and public sector that is taking place during the last three decades. Neo-liberalism, dominant in the policy agenda of the leading world powers during this period of time, advocates the necessity of privatisation, including privatisation of public services. However, the international outcomes of privatisation policies associated with the promotion of market relations and private investments in the public sector have not been sufficiently examined in empirical research. Although globalisation debates refer to international regulation, competition and the concentration of capital, there is a paucity of detailed empirically focused study on patterns of ownership and what they mean to a changing international order, especially with respect to privatised utilities.

The thesis opens up these themes in a focused way, analysing outcomes of water privatisation and electricity privatisation worldwide. It draws on a comprehensive database held by the Public Services International Research Unit (PSIRU) that enables an empirically based analysis of arguments about the outcomes of utilities' privatisation in the light of the globalisation debate. The main methodology used as a basis for a critical assessment of theories of globalisation is social network analysis. The thesis is mostly concerned with the international aspects of the privatisation of public utilities. It begins by arguing that the privatisation of public services worldwide should be located within debates on globalisation. The thesis then presents a reinterpretation of main globalisation trends, specifically the processes related to the internationalisation of public services, as an emerging modern form of economic colonialism.

To develop this argument the thesis comprises a variety of dimensions. First, three sets of debates are reviewed, globalisation, the internationalisation of capital and colonialism. In the course of this analysis attention is drawn to the concentration of economic power and the international dominance of three economic blocs - the North America, Western Europe and Japan. The second dimension of the thesis is the presentation of an analytic framework to analyse the recent developments of privatisation worldwide. Drawing on the achievements of social network analysis a methodology for examining the outcomes of privatisation in relation to ownership and the patterns of concentration that have emerged is developed. This part of the thesis transforms the research questions that arise from the examination of debates about globalisation and privatisation and related developments. Here a set of hypotheses is developed to examine the process of privatisation worldwide, with reference to the electricity and water sector.

With this methodology outlined, the third dimension is present. In this section of the thesis particular explanatory dimensions of the process of globalisation are examined, specifically geography, culture, economy, and politics. Using SNA techniques that build on the first phase of the quantitative analysis which examines ownership concentration and identifies the presence of the star-like pattern of ownership in all studied sectors of public utilities, a rich vein of evidence of the key features of privatisation worldwide is presented.

The broad themes of this analysis are then drawn together in an assessment section. This assessment shows that economic globalisation reflects economic asymmetries and is related to political status, and that historical links make a considerable impact on the global ownership structures that have emerged in public services after privatisation. A key conclusion is that public services are being transformed as part of global capitalist system and that under the cover of globalisation a particular form of economic colonialism is emerging - the neo-colonialism that is centred on a few major western economies: The United States, France and the United Kingdom.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information:
Uncontrolled Keywords: public services, public utilities, social network analysis, internationalisation, ownership, globalisation, gas, electricity, water
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor
Faculty / School / Research Centre / Research Group: Faculty of Business
Faculty of Business > Department of International Business & Economics
Last Modified: 13 Apr 2018 14:07

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