Forthcoming Conference: Privatization: a Contested Concept
Privatization has occupied the attention of theorists of different disciplines. Traditional debates concerning privatization rely heavily on comparing the performance of a public functionary with that of its private counterpart. In that context, the debate is often between those who emphasize considerations of efficiency and those who focus on the values of accountability and transparency. Other theorists examined broader and more elusive concerns such as the expressive and symbolic aspects of privatization. Under this heading, theorists examined the effects of privatization on political engagement, the status of citizens and their responsibilities, the significance of membership in the political community etc.
To examine the relevant considerations bearing on privatization our conference will bring together theorists from different fields including law, philosophy, political science, economics and history who will address the questions both at a theoretical level as well as at a more concrete level. At the theoretical level, participants are invited to discuss the meaning of private and public in the context of these debates. Do we judge publicness and privateness on the basis of the values and reasons underlying the activity, e.g., whether the activity promotes public or private interests, whether it meets criteria of accountability and public responsibility? Alternatively, should we judge publicness and privateness on the basis of the agents in charge of the activity: public officials versus private individuals or entities? What is the significance if any of the institutional difference between public and private entities?
At the concrete level, we hope to explore the types of goods that can or cannot be privatized. By examining case studies involving controversial cases of privatization such as police, prisons, education and others, we hope to study in what ways privatization affects the goodness of certain goods. Under what circumstances, if at all, the goodness of goods and services may hinge on the question of who provides them.