1st Edition

Drinking Water: A Socio-economic Analysis of Historical and Societal Variation

By Mark Harvey Copyright 2015
    192 Pages 27 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    192 Pages 27 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    In this fascinating and challenging work, the author analyses the way water for drinking is produced, distributed, owned, acquired, and consumed in contrasting ways in different settings. From the taken-for-granted, all-purpose water, flowing out of taps in advanced economies to extreme inequalities of access to water of variable qualities, drinking water tells its own interesting story, but also reflects some of the centrally important characteristics of the state and economies of the different countries. From sparkling mineral water in Germany, to drinking water garages in Taiwan, from water tankers in Mexico City to street vendors in Delhi markets, comparisons are made to stretch our understanding of what we mean by ‘an economy’, quality, and property rights, of water. 

    In addition, the study of socio-economics of drinking water provides a route into understanding interactions between polity, economy and nature. One of the major themes of the book is to analyse the ‘sociogenic’ nature of sustainability crises of economies of water in their environmental settings: epidemics, droughts, pollution, land subsidences and floods. Overall it develops an economic sociology, neo-Polanyian approach in a comparative and historical exploration of water for domestic consumption.

    1. Properties of Water 

    Mark Harvey 

    2. London Drinking: Historical Transformations of Water 

    Mark Harvey 

    3. Configuring Bottled Water in Europe 

    Adrian Evans and Mark Harvey 

    4. Divided Delhi: Bricolage Economies and Sustainability Crises 

    Aviram Sharma and Mark Harvey 

    5. Mexico City: Up in the Sky without a River 

    Daniel Figueroa and Mark Harvey 

    6. Taiwan Water: Little Island, Waves of Power 

    William Li and Mark Harvey 

    7. Water Variations 

    Mark Harvey


    Mark Harvey is a Professor in the Department of Sociology and Director of the Centre for Research in Economic Sociology and Innovation, University of Essex, UK.

    "Theoretically generative, methodologically creative, richly comparative, and politically engaged, Drinking Water doesn’t just work within the Polanyian tradition, it substantively reinvents that tradition. Working imaginatively around the nexus of political economy and political ecology, Mark Harvey and his colleagues confront the question of urban drinking water not just as a 'policy problem,' but as a departure point for a bold exploration of the diverse properties of water – as an unruly public good, as an uncooperative commodity, as a mercurial space of state regulation, as an enduring biosocial necessity, and more. This is a truly original and important book." – Jamie Peck, University of British Columbia, Canada.

    "A fine and fascinating book, exploring the inter-relationship of natural resources, property rights, economic organisation, forms of exchange and modes of consumption, and offering intriguing detail, telling analysis, theoretical sophistication and political relevance." – Alan Warde, University of Manchester, UK. 

    "A major contribution to political economy that explains how drinking water came to flow from tap in some countries but is purchased in bottles in others." – Frank Trentmann, Birkbeck, University of London, UK.