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Author:Andreas Streinzer (Institute for Social Research Frankfurt Main)
Paper short abstract:
The paper examines the importance of normative moralities of deservingness and human worth in struggles about wealth taxation in Austria. It explores the role of taxation as hidden welfare in times of variegated austerity and proposes a combination of materialist and interpretative approaches.
Paper long abstract:
The proposed paper examines variegated austerity from the angle of (a) the restructuration of wealth taxation, and (b) its normative moralities in Austrian economic policy. While the link between austerity and spending cuts has been widely acknowledged, the importance of "revenue cuts" has been underexplored. As form of "hidden welfare", (non)taxation plays a key role in the restructuration of citizen - state relations and beyond as EU non-discrimination and non-subsidy policy factors into attempts at selective redistribution through (non)taxation.
The paper will provide a historically informed ethnography of wealth taxation in Austria and specifically, recent attempts to reintroduce wealth, inheritance, and property taxes. These recent attempts at policy exhibit the crucial role of arguments of human worth in the conjuncture of variegated austerity and reinforced productivism. While the abolition of these taxes in the early 1990s benefited a small elite, it was framed as deserved relief for ordinary and hard-working people. Non-taxation since then emerged as an important articulation of (a) being a deserving economic citizen, (b) a validation of one's contribution to society, and (c) legitimisation of exemption from redistributive contributions.
Summarising, the paper will present everyday and expert common senses of taxation and analyse discourses of human needs and reciprocity for the justification of restructured redistribution during tax reforms in Austria. The paper explores the importance of both a materialist and interpretative analysis of economic policy for an understanding of the politics of human worth in austere times.
Human worth in austere times: transformative welfare regimes, human needs and public policy