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The History of Privatization

Guy Standing

From forests to city squares, parks to libraries, our common spaces are under attack. Economist Guy Standing traces the history of creeping privatization of the natural and social resources in the UK, and makes a passionate case for reform.

  • guy standing economist iaitv
    Guy Standing

About the Course

Why is the Duke of Westminster one of the richest people in Britain, and how did he end up owning most of Mayfair and Belgravia? Why are prisons being run for profit? Why did Thames Water pour over 1 billion tonnes of untreated sewage into the Thames?

In these stirring lectures, Guy Standing takes us from the Magna Carta and the Charter of the Forest to the present day to tell the story of how our right to draw sustenance and support from shared resources has been gradually effaced, and why, in his view, we should fight back.

In this course you will learn about:

  • Why the Charter of the Forest of 1217 was so subversive and remarkable – and why it still riles the neoliberal right today
  • How figures like Henry VIII and Cromwell seized common land and distributed it among allies and the aristocracy - and who still benefits today.
  • How the concept of ‘social income’ can help capture the value of the commons.
  • How the destruction of common resources exacerbates inequality.
  • How public parks and other public spaces come to be effectively run by private companies


Through video lectures, questions and suggested reading discover the history and politics of our common resources. Share your ideas and support your learning through our discussion boards and test your knowledge through an end of course assessment.


IAI Academy courses are designed to be challenging but accessible to the interested student. No specialist knowledge is required.

About the Instructor

  • Guy Standing

    Professor of Development Studies at SOAS University of London, Standing is an economist and founder member of the Basic Income Earth Network. He is the author of The Precariat: The New Dangerous Class and Basic Income: And How We Can Make It Happen.

Course Syllabus

  • Part One: The Commons Through History
  • Part Two: The Commons Now

Explore Further


Guy Standing in debate with Diane Abbot and Philip Collins about the importance of political visions of the future, for the IAI.

Short articles and interviews

Guy Standing, Magna Carta: 800 years on, we need a new people’s charter, The Guardian

Guy Standing, The Universal Basic Income: For the Sceptics, IAI News                                               

All of Guy Standing’s articles for the Guardian 

A full list of articles and interviews with Guy StandingBritish Library digital resource on the Magna Carta


Guy Standing (2017). Basic income and how we can make it happen. London: Penguin

Guy Standing (2016). The Corruption of Capitalism: Why Rentiers Thrive and Work Does Not Pay. Biteback