Public Reason: Vol. 3, No. 2, December 2011
Public Services on the Market: Issues and Arguments
Rutger Claassen

This special issue brings together a variety of scholars to reflect on the question of the marketization of public services. In the last two or three decades most Western countries have adopted large-scale programs towards liberalization, deregulation, privatization and the use of market mechanisms within the public sector. The boundaries between public and private have shifted in favour of the latter. State provision of essential public services (such as health care, policing, education, public broadcasting, public transport and housing, energy and water) is no longer as self-evident as it had become in the aftermath of the Second World War, when Western countries built up extensive welfare states. At the same time the formerly communist countries of Central and Eastern Europe have made the transition from command-style economies to largely privatized economies. In the developing world too, partly under pressure from the IMF and the World Bank, privatization and deregulation held sway.

This movement towards marketization, which is the topic of this special issue, has received insufficient attention in analytical – moral and political – philosophy. In the 1970s and 1980s philosophers intensely debated the merits of capitalism from the viewpoint of general theories such as libertarianism, (analytical) Marxism and liberal egalitarianism. Since then however, many philosophers turned to non-economic issues (such as identity politics, multiculturalism, citizenship and democratic theory). Others, who kept on working on social justice, argued over increasingly sophisticated ideal-typical distributive schemes, often however without showing what that would mean in the messy practice of actually existing institutions. This special issue seeks to contribute to a reversal of this trend...



Claassen, Rutger. 2011. Public Services on the Market: Issues and Arguments. Public Reason 3 (2): 3-12.