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Accepted Paper:

has pdf download Maximisation against the state: tax avoidance and deviance in Greece   
Andreas Streinzer (University of St. Gallen)

Paper short abstract:

There is considerable ambivalence about the rights and wrongs of tax avoidance among my interlocutors in Volos, Greece. Discussing ethnographic material from recent fieldwork, I will ask whether this maximisation against the state can and should be addressed as economic deviance.

Paper long abstract:

'Every day I see their ships passing the bay, freight, ferries, whatever. I know who owns them. They don't pay taxes for their profits, not any.' (Penelope, 50, Volos 10.7.2015)

Starting from Penelope's story as a former employee of a notorious tax evader, the paper asks whether avoiding taxes in contemporary Greece should be addressed as economic deviance (Merton 1938). As the underlying doctrine of the virtualism (Carrier and Miller 1998) by which Greek economic lives are restructured, neoliberalism welcomes maximisation against the state. In Greece this is met by considering industries too big to be taxed (Reuters 2015) and a large number of self-employed that underreport their incomes (Artavanis, Morse and Tsoutsoura 2015). My ethnographic material from Volos suggests that there is a considerable ambivalence about the rights and wrongs of not paying one's taxes. Discussing topics like the number of Greek offshoring activities, the appointments to government positions dealing with tax evasion, as well as what they consider a corrupt and inefficient public system, my interlocutors address tax avoidance in moral and political terms. On the basis of this ethnographic material, I shall firstly discuss the issue of tax avoidance as interest politics (paralleling Scott's argument about corruption, Scott 1969). Secondly, I will reflect the shift from political economy to moral economy in the framing of contemporary questions of distribution (cf. Narotzky 2016).

Panel P027
Not rotten apples: disciplinary approaches to economic wrong-doing
  Session 1