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nationalization, acquisition and operation by a country of business enterprises formerly owned and operated by private individuals or corporations. State or local authorities have traditionally taken private property for such public purposes as the construction of roads, dams, or public buildings. Known as the right of eminent domain, this process is usually accompanied by the payment of compensation. By contrast, the concept of nationalization is a 20th cent. development that differs from eminent domain in motive and degree; it is done for the purpose of social and economic equality and is usually, although not always, applied as a principle of communistic or socialistic theories of society. The Communist states of Eastern Europe nationalized all industry and agriculture in the period following World War II. Under the Labour government of the period 1945 to 1951, Great Britain nationalized a number of important industries, including coal, steel, and transportation. In non-Communist countries it has been common practice to compensate the owners of nationalized properties, at least in part; however, in the Communist countries, where private ownership is opposed in principle, there usually has not been such compensation. Nationalization of foreign properties has occurred, especially in developing nations, where there is resentment of foreign control of major industries. Instances include Mexico's seizure of oil properties owned by U.S. corporations (1938), Iran's nationalization of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (1951), the nationalization of the Suez Canal Company (1956) by Egypt, and Chile's nationalization of its foreign-owned copper-mining industry (1971). Such expropriations raise complex problems of international law. In some cases disputes over nationalization are settled by adjudication, with the expropriated parties obtaining compensation for their former properties, if only in part. In other instances, where no compensation is offered, severe strain in international relations may arise. The International Court of Justice ruled (1952) in the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company dispute that a concession made by a state to a foreign corporation is not an international agreement and is subject to the law of the conceding state—meaning that investors must assume the risk of nationalization in the country in which they invest, and developing nations have held that nationalization is a right implied by the UN Charter.

Privatization, the reverse process, has become widespread, however, with socialism's loss of credibility. Great Britain sold off many of its public companies, such as British Telecom; France sold 65 state-owned companies in 1988; and the collapse of Communist dictatorships in E Europe and the Soviet Union has inspired large-scale privatization in some of the nations in that region, in some instances after distributing government shares to the public. Housing has also been privatized on a large scale in Britain, and privatization has been proposed for public housing in the United States. Developing nations, too, have begun to privatize. In the United States, the term has also been broadly applied to the contracting out of the management of public schools, prisons, airports, sanitation services, and a variety of other government-owned institutions, especially at the state and local levels.


See J. Margolis, ed., Public Economics (1969); G. L. Reid and K. Allen, Nationalized Industries (1970); T. Prosser, Nationalized Industries (1986); E. D. Sclar, You Don't Always Get What You Pay For (2000).

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  1. the sale or transfer of ‘nationalized’, publicly owned industries into private ownership and control. In the UK this process is particularly associated with the economic and social theories of THATCHERISM. The sale of shares in British Telecom, British Petroleum, British Gas, British Airways, and other companies is one aspect of this. In other areas the sale of council houses, and proposed changes in the WELFARE STATE, particularly in the funding of health and education, are comparable. See NEW RIGHT, NEW PUBLIC MANAGEMENT
  2. retreat of the individual from participation in political and PUBLIC activities.
  3. a process in which traditional, working-class communal life styles are said to have been replaced by more family and home-centred ones, away from the older working- class housing and in relatively new housing estates. Sense 3 is particularly associated with the AFFLUENT WORKER study of GOLDTHORPE, LOCKWOOD et al. (1968-9). The focus of interest in this work is the hypothesis that significant changes in attitudes are associated with privatization. In particular, the breakdown of class loyalties, an ‘instrumentalist’ orientation to work, a new concern with living standards and status, a more pragmatic political orientation (rather than an ‘automatic’ support for the Labour Party), greater job mobility, and, generally, more individualistic attitudes. The Affluent Worker study is undoubtedly a ‘classic’ of British sociological research. Drawing on a number of themes which were popular in the 1950s and 60s, it has been a source for theoretical and empirical work in the areas of working-class structure, CLASS CONSCIOUSNESS, and CLASS IMAGERY. Critics have indicated the oversimplification of Lockwood and Goldthorpe's categories, questioning their empirical usefulness in circumstances in which nontraditional class locations are associated with instrumentality and increased political militancy. Critics have also noted the lack of consideration given to factors other than social CLASS in the work: race, gender, religion, age, for example, may all affect attitudes (see Rose, 1988). As part of the reorientation of British sociology in the study of social class and class consciousness, though, this study of changing aspects of social class structure and consciousness remains of central importance.
Collins Dictionary of Sociology, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2000
References in periodicals archive ?
(7) These statements suggest that the move to reinvigorate denationalisation laws in all three countries was underpinned by two justifications: a security rationale and a symbolic rationale.
Enter the word `privatisation' into Google and the first page alone will give you details of denationalisation programmes in Delhi, Zambia, Nepal, Uganda, Qatar and Bangladesh.
The proponents of denationalisation also had the fixed idea that `public was bad and private was good' -- the opposite of accepting the merits of service public, as was the case with governments in Paris.
ER: What are your views about the denationalisation process in the country?
The ZCCM Chambeshi mine is already up for sale and the intention is to go power in October 1991, over 70,000 jobs ahead with a process of denationalisation. Chiluba and the ZCCM management are still looking towards Anglo-American of South Africa as a likely buyer.
The First Privatisation: The Politicians, the City, and the Denationalisation of Steel This is a short study of the privatization (or denationalization) of the steel industry in Britain during the 1950s.
"It is another organisation that we allowed tobecome loss-making with no prospect of denationalisation," Finance Minister Harris Georgiades said.
Conditional to the bailout funds was that Cyprus needed to raise some EUR 1.4 bln from privatisations or from denationalisation, to lower the burden on the taxpayer and make the economy more competitive.
The minister said that the revenues from denationalisation this year may exceed the proceeds from the privatisation process carried out last year by 30 per cent.
The global village syndrome, where your competitors are in China and India rather than up the road in West Bromwich or Warley, the relentless march of new technology and denationalisation programmmes have shrunk our manufacturing base.
The proposed action of denationalisation will neither serve the interest of policyholders nor the employees or field workers.
One of Tuesday's bills froze denationalisation of the telecoms company, CyTA, until the end of the year.