Vivienne Bennett

Vivienne Bennett, the author of The Politics of Water, chairs the Liberal Studies Department at California State University, San Marcos.

Enduring Reform

Progressive Activism and Private Sector Responses in Latin America's Democracies

Over the last twenty years, business responses to progressive reform in Latin America have shifted dramatically. Until the 1990s, progressive movements in Latin America suffered violent repression sanctioned by the private sector and other socio-political elites. The powerful case studies in this volume show how business responses to reform have become more open–ended as Latin America’s democracies have deepened, with repression tempered by the economic uncertainties of globalization, the political and legal constraints of democracy, and shifting cultural understandings of poverty and race.

Enduring Reform presents five case studies from Mexico, Brazil, and Argentina in which marginalized groups have successfully forged new cultural and economic spaces and won greater autonomy and political voice. Bringing together NGO’s, local institutions, social movements, and governments, these initiatives have developed new mechanisms to work ‘within the system,’ while also challenging the system’s logic and constraints.

Through firsthand interviews, the contributors capture local businesspeople’s understandings of these progressive initiatives and record how they grapple with changes they may not always welcome, but must endure. Among their criteria, the contributors evaluate the degree to which businesspeople recognize and engage with reform movements and how they frame electoral counterproposals to reformist demands. The results show an uneven response to reform, dependent on cultural as much or more than economic factors, as businesses move to decipher, modify, collaborate with, outmaneuver, or limit progressive innovations.

From the rise of worker-owned factories in Buenos Aires, to the collective marketing initiatives of impoverished Mayans in San Cristóbal de las Casas, the success of democracy in Latin America depends on powerful and cooperative social actions and actors, including the private sector. As the cases in Enduring Reform show, the democratic context of Latin America today presses businesspeople to endure, accept, and at times promote progressive change in unprecedented ways, even as they act to limit and constrain it.

Opposing Currents

The Politics of Water and Gender in Latin America

This volume focuses on women in Latin America as stakeholders in water resources management. It makes their contributions to grassroots efforts more visible, explains why doing so is essential for effective public policy and planning in the water sector, and provides guidelines for future planning and project implementation.
After an in-depth review of gender and water management policies and issues in relation to domestic usage, irrigation, and sustainable development, the book provides a series of case studies prepared by an interdisciplinary group of scholars and activists. Covering countries throughout the hemisphere, and moving freely from impoverished neighborhoods to the conference rooms of international agencies, the book explores the various ways in which women are-and are not-involved in local water initiatives across Latin America. Insightful analyses reveal what these case studies imply for the success or failure of various regional efforts to improve water accessibility and usability, and suggest new ways of thinking about gender and the environment in the context of specific policies and practices.

The Politics of Water

Urban Protest, Gender, and Power in Monterrey, Mexico

Monterrey is Mexico’s second most important industrial city, emerging in this era of free trade as a cornerstone of Mexico’s economic development. But development has been uneven and has taken a toll: As recently as the early 1980s, nearly a quarter of the city’s almost three million inhabitants did not have running water in their homes. At the same time, heavy industry – especially steel, iron, chemical, and paper works – were major users of water in their production processes.
Extensive industrialization coupled with a lack of infrastructure development astonishing in a major industrial city raises serious questions about the process of planning urban services in Mexico. Bennett uses the water crisis of the 1980s as a lens through which to reveal this planning process and the provision of public services in Monterrey. She finds three groups who were central to the evolution of the city’s water system: federal and state government leaders, the regional private sector elite (the Grupo Monterrey), and women living in the low-income neighborhoods of the city.
Bennett unravels the politics of water in Monterrey by following three threads of inquiry. First, she examines the water services themselves – what was built, when, why, and who paid for them. She then reveals the response of poor women to the water crisis, analyzing who participated in protests, the strategies they used, and how the government responded. And, finally, she considers the dynamics of planning water services for the private sector and the government in investment and management. In the end, Monterrey’s water services improved because power relations shifted and because poor women in Monterrey used protests to make national news out of the city’s water crisis.
The Politics of Water makes a significant contribution to the emerging scholarship on regional politics in Mexico and to a deeper understanding of the Monterrey region in particular. Until recently, most scholarly writing on Mexico spoke of the national political system as a monolithic whole. Scholars such as Vivienne Bennett are now recognizing the power of local citizens and the significant differences among regions when it comes to politics, policy making, and governmental investment decisions.