"This sweeping, inter-disciplinary book is brilliant, refreshing and bold. It asks two fundamental questions in which we should all be interested: where have the ideas of water as a 'resource' to be 'managed' for the good of society or the nation come from? And how have they driven world-wide economic development that has not infrequently done more harm than good? The answers might surprise you (spoiler alert: anthropology and philosophy had a lot to do with the formation of this paradigm). This book is perhaps most imaginative in the ways it aims to disrupt a way of thinking that has dominated the anthropocene for far too long."
—Steven C. Caton, Professor of Anthropology, Harvard University
"Water is a philosophy of water that intellectually challenges the reader on many levels. Its core chapters present a fresh history of ideas in the disciplines of geology, anthropology, and others that have shaped modern water thought in the U.S. and beyond, from the late-19th century culture of Washington DC civic scholars WJ McGee and J.W. Powell to the pragmatism of 20th century water management and 21st century global water agendas for the Anthropocene. It frames and critically challenges that account with perspectives from Wittgenstein and others as a liberal philosophy of water that has become so widespread as to become what Schmidt calls 'normal water.' His searching critique is not just about the philosophy of water, it contributes to that philosophy in its ideas and methods."
—James L. Wescoat, Jr. , Aga Khan Professor, MIT
"In showing how water resources are far from a neutral category, this well researched and enlightening book is an important read for understanding how we perceive water today."
—LSE Review of Books
"Wide-ranging and incisive . . . Drawing on diverse conceptual traditions, including anthropology, geography, geology, environmental history and political philosophy, Schmidt traces the co-evolution of water management and American liberalism. . . . I found Schmidt’s book to be challenging, stimulating and instructive, and I am sure it will quickly become core reading for anyone interested in water and society."
"This is an important book on an important subject."
—Catholic Library World
"I heartily recommend this book to anyone who is interested in the nexus between ideas and water, writ large. It is an impressive and incisive look into the minds of those who control a substance that is essential to all forms of life."
—American Historical Review
“Using history and the connection between humanity and geology, this title offers readers a unique viewpoint on and an in-depth understanding of water management.”
"[An] ambitious, deeply researched, and thoughtful work of interdisciplinary scholarship. . . establishes fascinating connections between seeming dead ends in American intellectual history and today’s global socioenvironmental concerns."
—Journal of American History
"Water makes a strong and compelling case that we have accepted for far too long the perspective that water can be constructed only, or primarily, as a resource."
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