Conviviality Under Pressure of Market-Modernist Expertocracy: The Case of Water Commons in Rural Switzerland

Moritz Hofstetter*, Alex Bolding, Rutgerd Boelens

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Citizens outside of the built-up zone in the Canton of Lucerne, Switzerland are self-responsible to establish and maintain their water services. In response many independent, collective water schemes emerged in rural areas. We describe these schemes as commons, since citizens organize legal, institutional, and infrastructural aspects of water access in a collective manner. Since the late 19th century such commons serving farming households have been subsidized by the State. In this article, we develop a conviviality lens to analyze how water commons are being supported and regulated by public institutions. We show how the introduction of neoliberal policy reforms summarized under the term New Public Management (NPM) put pressure on this public support. By describing a specific project in detail, we demonstrate how the failure of a market-modernist expertocracy to recognize these commons as alternative forms of social organization negatively affects their viability. We argue that for the proliferation of these commons their complexity, networked autonomy, and rooted notions of belonging need to be recognised.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)375-389
Number of pages15
JournalInternational Journal of the Commons
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 6 Nov 2023


  • commons
  • Conviviality
  • expertocracy
  • modernism
  • Switzerland
  • water


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