by Sharon Beder
The New Press, New York, August 2003
Scribe Publications, Melbourne, Australia, June 2003
Kyobo Book Centre, South Korea, Korean translation, 2004
Soshisha Publishing, Japan, Japanese translation, 2005
Fondo de Cultura Económica, Mexico, Spanish translation, 2005
416 pages; 234 x 153 mm; references, index
‘A rip-roaring tale.’ (The Sun-Herald)
‘Lucidly written, strongly argued, highly informative and deeply alarming.’ (Los Angeles Times)
Part 1: Power politics in the US before deregulation
Part 2: The US deregulates and markets rule
Part 3: The British Experiment
Part 4: Australia: A Dedicated Follower of Fashion
Part 5: Free Markets to Far Flung Corners
Conclusion: The Great Electric Confidence Trick
Noted author Sharon Beder argues persuasively that the track record of electricity privatisation and deregulation around the world indicates that it is a confidence trick. Her book shows how simplistic ideology and economic theory have been used to mask the pursuit of self-interest; how control of electricity has been wrested from public hands to create profit opportunities for investors and multinational corporations; and how an essential public service has been turned into a speculative commodity in the name of ‘reform’.
Power Play explores the battles between private and public ownership in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia since the early twentieth century, and the agenda-setting and public relations strategies involved. It investigates the way that developing countries such as Brazil and India have been forced to allow foreign investors to exercise a stranglehold over their electricity systems. And it uncovers the campaigns waged by think tanks, corporate interests, and multinational companies such as Enron to swindle the public in dozens of countries out of rightful control over an essential public service.
Gabriel Kolko, Distinguished Research Professor Emeritus at York University
"This is a unique and comprehensive account of the crucial struggle for control over power and electricity, ranging from the United States before 1914, the role of the International Monetary Fund in opposing public ownership, to the shocking practices and consequences of Enron in India and privatization in Brazil during the past decade. Sharon Beder writes with verve and elucidates the arcane aspects of this fundamental and very basic dimension of modern industrial society. At the same time, her research is impeccable.
For a general and comprehensible account of the struggle for control of electrical power, there is no equal to Beder's Power Play. This is an important and readable book."
Ian Lowe, emeritus professor at Griffith University
"This book will make you very angry"
Mike Davis, author of City of Quartz, Dead Cities, and Prisoners of the American Dream