Fiscal State-Citizen Alignment: Tracing the Sociohistorical Conditions of the Financial Crisis

Tim Holst Celik
2016 Critical Historical Studies  
The 2008 crisis ended the growth-bubble of the 2000s, which OECD governments facilitated through the normative/political-regulatory promotion of household indebtedness. Historically contextualizing this state-citizen relationship, this article maps out four episodes of sovereign fiscalism, namely debt-taking in the Italian city-states, the making of the absolutist tax/fiscal state, the eighteenth/nineteenth century elaboration of the economic citizen, and the postwar era of managed capitalism.
more » ... anaged capitalism. Finally, it applies this framework to the 2008 crisis and the larger post-1970s politicoeconomic constellation. The crisis can be perceived as a particular articulation of an age-old state-household dynamic -a dialectical alignment of the mode of fiscal state-crafting with the ethos of the state-citizen nexus -characterized by a heightened fiscal attentiveness to ordinary consumer-citizens. By uncovering the socio-historical conditions governing the dominant pre-crisis regime, it not only nuances our understanding of the crisis but also of neoliberalism and suggests the implausibility of returning to "Golden Age" democratic capitalism. * For valuable feedback on previous versions and drafts (or simply relevant critical discussion), I thank Daniel Mügge, Brian Burgoon, Marieke de Goede, Raphaël Wolff, David Kempel (particularly for help with the figure) and the participants at seminars at both the SASE 27th Annual Conference at the LSE, the 9th Pan-European Conference on International Relations in Sicily and my home department. I also thank the two anonymous reviewers and the editors of Critical Historical Studies for very productive comments and suggestions. economic potential of "ordinary" consumer-citizens became institutionalized in a dominant growth regime of socalled "privatized" or "house price" Keynesianism, which became a means of reproducing fiscal-budgetary activity. 5 Importantly, the crisis of 2008 revealed that the historical democratization of private debt integral to the prevailing growth regime of the 2000s relied on, as one of its main conditions of possibility, a particular fiscal relationship between governments and their citizens: a mode of "infrastructural" fiscal state-crafting, 6 in which the routine behavior and social ethic of ordinary households -the "ethos" of the state-citizen nexus -were actively sought out, aligned with, and drawn into governments' yearly cycles of growth maximization. The 2008 financial crisis can be perceived as the culmination, and perhaps permanent breakdown, of a larger post-1970s fiscal state-citizen alignment, in which active fiscal complicity and co-producership by the increasingly liberalized and democratized sovereign consumer-citizens have become absolutely integral to modern day sovereign fiscalism. This article seeks to examine the main historical, socio-cultural, and political conditions of possibility of this post-1970s development. It situates the above mode of fiscal state-crafting within a broader context of shifting fiscal state-citizen alignments by mapping out selected historical episodes of fiscal management within the Western setting. By shedding light on the mechanisms and conditions of fiscal state-crafting cutting across time and space, the article favors the examination of historical commonalities of Western polities, rather than more fixed crosssectional differences. 7 Comparing, for example, the citizen-creditors of the Italian city-states of the Middle Ages and Renaissance with the citizen-debtors of the dominant growth regime of the 2000s allows us to more visibly perceive the co-evolution of the state-citizen relationship and the mode of fiscal state-crafting.
doi:10.1086/685555 fatcat:64u6p2apezexrbsqg6h73hjrhi