Water Grabbing, Capitalist Accumulation and Resistance: Conceptualising the Multiple Dimensions of Class Struggle





The purpose of this article is to reflect on how we can conceptualise the multiple types of struggles over water. Through a historical materialist engagement with social reproduction theorists, post-colonial interventions and eco-socialism, we argue that capitalist reproduction not only depends on the exploitation of wage labour but also the expropriation of nature and people along different forms of oppression. By focusing on historical processes and the intertwined dynamics necessary for capitalist reproduction, we reveal the internal relations of these struggles to each other and to global capitalism. Moreover, by putting forward a conceptual and methodological guide for how to approach water struggles relationally, we can point to the anti-systemic potential of these struggles. We argue that the diversity of protesters apparent in struggles against water grabbing captures internally related and mediated forms of class struggle, where the terrain of class struggle is inclusive of the whole social factory.

KEYWORDS: Class struggle; exploitation; expropriation; primitive accumulation; water grabbing; incorporated comparison

Author Biographies

Andreas Bieler, The University of Nottingham

Andreas Bieler is Professor of Political Economy in the School of Politics and International Relations at the University of Nottingham and Co-Director of the independent Centre for the Study of Social and Global Justice (CSSGJ). He is author of Global Capitalism, Global War, Global Crisis (together with Adam D. Morton) (CUP 2018) and Fighting for Water: Resisting Privatization in Europe (Zed Books 2021).

Madelaine Moore, University of Bielefeld

Madelaine Moore is a Post-doctoral researcher in Transnational Social Policy at the University of Bielefeld, Germany. She completed her PhD at the International Center for Development and Decent Work (ICDD) at the University of Kassel in 2020. She was a visiting research fellow in Global Political Economy at the University of Manchester in 2018. Her research focusses on water governance, eco-social policies, social reproduction theory and studying social movements from a critical political economy perspective.