Water, food and climate commoning in South African cities

Contradictions and prospects

Authored by: Patrick Bond , Mary Galvin

Routledge Handbook Of Food As A Commons

Print publication date:  December  2018
Online publication date:  December  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138062627
eBook ISBN: 9781315161495
Adobe ISBN:


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Social change has occurred unevenly in South Africa, with adverse implications for the ­strategy of ‘commoning.’ 1 The framing of a commons is not as popular in this extremely unequal society as are various versions of ‘Right to the City’ narratives, or simply the informal and mainly illegal appropriation of state-supplied services, especially water and electricity, sometimes in the wake of the thousands of ‘service delivery protests’ that occur each year. The narrow, constitutionalist framings of rights are most often articulated by lawyers supporting low-income people in these struggles, while other organizers (e.g. Ngwane, 2009) have taken up a more expansive argument consistent with arguments made by Henri Lefebvre (1996) or David Harvey (2012). The direction the latter may go, if the ‘popcorn protests’ can be linked up more effectively, could be towards a new version of mutual-aid philosophy often considered within the ‘eco-socialist,’ feminist and decolonizing traditions of radical South African politics. To understand the concrete form these are taking, it is useful first to frame these as contestations of the commons.

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