Department of Global Development Studies


Global Development Studies

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David McDonald


PhD (Political Studies), University of Toronto

Phone:  613-533-6962
Fax:  613-533-2986

Mackintosh-Corry Hall A407
Global Development Studies
Queen's University
Kingston, ON K7L 3N6

Office hours:
By Appointment

Research Interests

My research revolves around debates over public versus private service delivery (with a focus on water, electricity and health care), but encompass a broad spectrum of related questions on urbanization, environmental justice and uneven development.  Much of this research has been conducted through the Municipal Services Project (, which I founded and have been co-director of since 2000.  The focus of this project is 'alternatives to privatization', with research partners in Africa, Asia, Latin America and Europe.  We work with academics, social movements, labour unions and community groups in an effort to deepen our grassroots engagement and create research products that are relevant and useful to the communities and organizations most affected by these debates.

Theoretically, I am interested in competing conceptions of 'public' and how they have changed and been transformed under neoliberalism.  As a (marxian) political economist my focus in on the financial, institutional and ideological structures that tie everyday service delivery to the larger currents of (re)production, but I am also interested in socio-cultural concepts of space and place that make up the connectivities of public engagement.  My research has had a largely urban focus, including the growing networks of 'world cities'.

Finally, I spent a number of years working on international migration with the Southern African Migration Project  I am no longer directly involved in this work but remain interested in questions of migration and xenophobia.

Supervisory Interests

I supervise graduate students in all three of the departments I am affiliated with (Global Development Studies, Geography, and Environmental Studies). I encourage applications from students focused on topics related to my research interests, and in particular on debates around public/private service provision in the Global South.

Other Appointments

Cross Appointed with the Department of Geography and the School of Environmental Studies


DEVS 354:  Cities and Urbanization in the South
DEVS 393:  Covid19 in the Global South
DEVS 492:  Energy Democracy
DEVS 492:  Privatization and Discontents

Selected Publications

Single-Authored Books

DA McDonald (2008). World City Syndrome: Neoliberalism and Inequality in Cape Town. Routledge: New York, 355 pp (see details)

Edited books

DA McDonald, T Marois and D Barrowclough (eds). 2020. Municipal Service Project (Kingston), UNCTAD (Geneva) and Eurodad (Brussels), 436pp (see details)

DA McDonald, S Spronk and D Chavez (eds). 2020. Municipal Service Project (Kingston), Transnational Institute (Amsterdam) and Consejo Latinoamericano de Ciencias Sociales (CLACSO) (Buenos Aires), 471pp (see details)

DA McDonald (ed), (2016) Making Public in a Privatized World: The Struggle for Essential Services, Zed Books: London, 241 pp (see details)

DA McDonald (ed) (2014) Rethinking Corporatization and Public Services in the Global South. Zed Books: London, 240 pp (see details)

M Pigeon, DA McDonald, S Kishimoto and O Hoedeman (eds), (2012) Remunicipalization: Putting Water Back Into Public Hands, Transnational Institute, Amsterdam, 116pp (see details).

DA McDonald and G Ruiters (eds). (2012). Alternatives to Privatization: Public Options for Essential Services in the Global South, Routledge (New York), HSRC Press (Cape Town), Leftword Books (Delhi), 540pp. (see details)

DA McDonald (ed). (2009). Electric Capitalism: Recolonizing Africa on the Power Grid, HSRC Press: Cape Town, Earthscan: London, 504pp. (see details)

DA McDonald and G Ruiters (eds). (2005). The Age of Commodity: Water Privatization in Southern Africa. Earthscan Press: London, 304 pp. (see details)

DA McDonald and J Pape (eds). (2002). Cost Recovery and the Crisis of Service Delivery in South Africa. Zed Press: London and HSRC Publishers: Pretoria, 2002, 207 pp.

DA McDonald (ed) Environmental Justice in South Africa. (2002). Ohio University Press: Athens and University of Cape Town Press, 341 pp. (see details)

J Crush and DA McDonald (eds). (2002). Transnationalism and New African Immigration to South Africa. Canadian Association of African Studies: Toronto, 184 pp.

DA McDonald and J Crush (eds). (2002). Destinations Unknown: Perspectives on the Brain Drain in Southern Africa. Africa Institute, Pretoria, 401 pp.

DA McDonald and EN Sahle (eds). (2002). The Legacies of Julius Nyerere: Influences on Development Discourse and Practice in Africa. Africa World Press, Trenton, New Jersey. 145 pp.

DA McDonald (ed). (2000). On Borders: Perspectives on International Migration in Southern Africa, St Martins Press, New York, 303pp. (see details)

Selected articles and book chapters

DA McDonald, T Marois and S Spronk. 2021. “Public Banks+ Public Water= SDG 6?”, Water Alternatives, 14(1), 117-134.

DA McDonald. 2020. “Innovation and new public water”, Journal of Economic Policy Reform, 23(1), 67-82.

DA McDonald and E Swyngedouw. 2019. “The New Water Wars: Struggles for Remunicipalization”, Water Alternatives, Vol 12, Iss 2, pp 322-333.

DA McDonald. 2019. “Will the Empire Strike Back?: Powerbrokers and Remunicipalisation in the Water Sector”, Water Alternatives, Vol 12, Iss 2, pp 348-359.

G Medarov and DA McDonald. 2019. “Which Way Will the Winds Blow?: Post-Privatisation Water Struggles in Sofia, Bulgaria”, Water Alternatives, Vol 12, Iss 2, pp 438-458.

DA McDonald. 2019. “Finding Common(s) Ground in the Fight for Water Remunicipalization”, Community Development Journal, Volume 54, Issue 1, pp 59–79

DA McDonald (forthcoming) “Innovation and New Public Water”, Journal of Economic Policy Reform.

DA McDonald. 2018. “Remunicipalization: The Future of Water Services?”, Geoforum, 91, pp 47-56.

DA McDonald. 2018. “Building a Pro-Public Movement in Canada”, Studies in Political Economy, Vol 99, Issue 1, pp 59-78

D.A. McDonald. 2018. “Learning From Corporatization: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly”, in Brownlee, J., Hurl, C., and Walby, K. (eds) Corporatizing Canada, Between the Lines: Toronto, pp 223-234

DA McDonald. 2016, “Icon(oclastic): John S Saul Reflects on Liberation Struggles in Southern Africa”, in Journal of Contemporary African Studies, Vol 34, Iss 2, pp 300-308

DA McDonald. 2016. “The Weight of Water: Benchmarking for Public Water Services”, Environment and Planning A. Vol. 48, Issue 11, pages 2181-2200

DA McDonald. 2016. “To Corporatize or Not to Corporatize (And if so How)?”, Utilities Policy, Vol 40, June, pp 107-114.

DA McDonald. 2016. “Back to the Future?: The Curious Case of ‘Public’ Services”, in MA Pagano (ed), Remaking the Urban Social Contract, University of Illinois Press: Chicago, pp 35-57

DA McDonald. 2016. “The Wonderful Worlds of Making Public”, in DA McDonald (ed). Making Public in a Privatizing World: The Struggle for Essential Services, Zed Books, London, pp 1-22

DA McDonald. 2016. “Building a Pro-Public Movement”, in DA McDonald (ed). Making Public in a Privatizing World: The Struggle for Essential Services, Zed Books, London, pp 251-263

DA McDonald. 2015. “You are Public…Now What? New Ways of Measuring Success”, in in Kishimoto, S., Lobina E, and Petitjean, O. (eds). 2015. Our Public Experience: The Global Experience with Remunicipalisation, Transnational Institute: Amsterdam, pp 86-94

DA McDonald. 2015. “Till Death Do Us Part: Reuniting Water and Health in the Struggle for Pro-Public Services”, in A Sengupta (ed), Global Health Watch IV, Zed Books, London

DA McDonald. 2014. “Defend, Militate and Alternate: Public Options in a Privatized World”, in L Pradella and T Maroi (eds), Polarizing Development: Alternatives to Neoliberalism and the Crisis, Pluto Press: London, pp 119-130

DA McDonald. 2014. “Corporatization and the Public Good/Bad”, in D Chavez and S Torres (eds), The Reinvention of the State: Public Enterprises and Development in Latin America and the World. TNI: Amsterdam, pp 65-85

DA McDonald. 2014. “Cape Town’s ‘World Class’ Segregation”, in R. Good, L Turgeon, and T Triadafilopoulos (eds) Segmented Cities? How Urban Contexts Shape Ethnic and Nationalist Politics, UBC Press, Vancouver, pp 143-164

DA McDonald. 2014. “Privatization.” in D Rowe (ed), Achieving Sustainability: Visions, Principles, and Practices, Detroit: Macmillan Reference, 631-634

DA McDonald. 2014. “Public ambiguity and the multiple meanings of corporatization”, in DA McDonald (ed) Rethinking Corporatization and Public Utilities in the Global South, Zed Press, London, pp 1-30.

DA McDonald. 2014. “Corporatization is dead … long live corporatization?”, in DA McDonald (ed) Rethinking Corporatization and Public Utilities in the Global South, Zed Press, London, pp 207-218.

E Leopold and DA McDonald. 2012. “Municipal Socialism Then and Now: Lessons for the Global South”, Third World Quarterly, 33:10, pp1837-53

Making Public in a Privatized World
World City Syndrome
Electric Capitalism
Rethinking Corporatization and Public Services in the Global South
Alternatives to Privatization