Capital, Coercion, and Postcommunist States

Capital, Coercion, and Postcommunist States

Gerald M. Easter
Copyright Date: 2012
Edition: 1
Published by: Cornell University Press
Pages: 248
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  • Book Info
    Capital, Coercion, and Postcommunist States
    Book Description:

    The postcommunist transitions produced two very different types of states. The "contractual" state is associated with the countries of Eastern Europe, which moved toward democratic regimes, consensual relations with society, and clear boundaries between political power and economic wealth. The "predatory" state is associated with the successors to the USSR, which instead developed authoritarian regimes, coercive relations with society, and poorly defined boundaries between the political and economic realms. In Capital, Coercion, and Postcommunist States, Gerald M. Easter shows how the cumulative result of the many battles between state coercion and societal capital over taxation gave rise to these distinctive transition outcomes.

    Easter's fiscal sociology of the postcommunist state highlights the interconnected paths that led from the fiscal crisis of the old regime through the revenue bargains of transitional tax regimes to the eventual reconfiguration of state-society relations. His focused comparison of Poland and Russia exemplifies postcommunism's divergent institutional forms. The Polish case shows how conflicts over taxation influenced the emergence of a rule-of-law contractual state, social-market capitalism, and civil society. The Russian case reveals how revenue imperatives reinforced the emergence of a rule-by-law predatory state, concessions-style capitalism, and dependent society.

    eISBN: 978-0-8014-6571-0
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xiv)
    (pp. 1-7)

    “The revenue of the state is the state,” Edmund Burke said.¹ From Caesar’s renderings to Cicero’s sinews to Franklin’s fatalism, a symbiotic relationship has long been recognized between tax collection and state capacity. Yet for some time Burke’s taxing maxim remained obscure to contemporary comparative politics. Since the 1990s, however, the trend has been reversed with a rash of new studies on the politics of taxation. Coincidently, just as comparativists were developing a taste for taxes, state finances in the postcommunist world took a turn for the worse. In August 1998 the Russian government announced that for lack of means...

    (pp. 8-22)

    The unexpected collapse of the communist regimes of Eastern Europe was an event not to be missed by social scientists. The once-feared Soviet Leviathan and its formidable totalitarian bloc crumbled into two dozen independent nation-states, rechristened the “ideal laboratory,” wherein social science theories on markets and democracy could be applied. Most influential in this endeavor were neoliberal economists, behavioralists, and transitologists, none of whom made the state a central feature of analysis. Instead, they shared expectations about individual and elite behavior that rested on a “liberal” conceptualization of state and society. But early postcommunist reform experiments produced unanticipated and disappointing...

    (pp. 23-50)

    The English Civil War, the American War of Independence, and the French Revolution are among the featured episodes adorning the syllabus of Western Civ, and they all have one thing in common—fiscal crisis. To be clear: fiscal crisis did not create these illustrious upheavals, but it was the instigating cause that set in motion a sequence of events that led to the dramatic demise of an established order. Many regimes experience fiscal crisis and survive. But broken regimes—that is, political power arrangements wherein institutions can no longer contain social antagonisms and legitimating symbols have lost emotive appeal—are...

  7. 3 POLITICS OF TAX REFORM: Making (and Unmaking) Revenue Bargains
    (pp. 51-85)

    Postcommunist states faced the same challenge as their fiscally inept communist predecessors—raising sufficient revenue from society to cover expenses and debts. To meet this challenge, a new approach to revenue extraction was needed. In the command economy, the state was financially sustained by industrial rents; in the transition economy, the state would have to rely on modern taxation. Two waves of tax reform surged across Eastern Europe in the postcommunist transition. First, in the early 1990s most postcommunist states adopted macrolevel tax policy reforms modeled after the advanced capitalist states. These reforms aimed to redirect the state’s fiscal focus...

    (pp. 86-123)

    Why do people pay taxes? Revenue-maximizing rulers have asked this question for centuries. The first examples of human writing were cuneiform ledgers of the tax payments received and debts outstanding to Mesopotamian kings. And the reason Jesus of Galilee was born a hundred miles away in Judea was because that was where the head of his household was obliged to register for an imperial census, so that Caesar could have a reliable record of his renderings. The most ancient texts confirm that a revenue-maximizing impulse long prompted rulers to create ever more complex systems of fiscal accounting and information gathering,...

    (pp. 124-151)

    In early modern Europe the attractiveness of “the state” as an alternative model of organizing political power was based largely on its impressive capacity to mobilize capital. The chief advantage of state-building monarchs over feudal princes and holy emperors was the ability to raise revenue, which could be used to bolster war-making and territorial administration.¹ The success of this model eventually led to its institutionalization across the continent. The basic components of state finance have not since changed much: income, credit, and currency. At the foundation of state fiscal capacity is income. The modern state prototype, the Italian city-states, prospered...

    (pp. 152-186)

    If coercion is at the foundation of state power, then capital is at the foundation of civil society. What makes postcommunist state building such a unique historical experience is that the flow of power resources runs from state to society, instead of the other way round. Ultimately, this process might lead to the consolidation of civil society, the social realm of private interaction and organization formally protected from state penetration and interference. A recurring theme in postcommunist studies, however, is the woeful weakness of civil society.¹ This is hardly surprising given the extensive monopolization of power resources long enjoyed by...

    (pp. 187-196)

    The postcommunist transitions are over. Across Eastern Europe, the transitions yielded much greater variety in political and economic institutional outcomes than was first anticipated. Although some postcommunist countries reached consolidated democracy, others deviated into new forms of authoritarianism, and still others lingered in hybrid-regime limbo. Socialism’s command economy was successfully dismantled, but unexpected and distorted forms of capitalism arose in its place, often of a thuggish character, more freebooter than free market. And, finally, the transitions gave rise to very different types of postcommunist states, bearing little likeness to the ideal liberal state. Indeed, the major flaw in the neoliberal...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 197-232)
  13. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 233-234)
  14. Index
    (pp. 235-242)