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Private Wealth and Public Revenue

Tasha Fairfield - Private Wealth Public RevenueTasha Fairfield, Private Wealth and Public Revenue in Latin America: Business Power and Tax Politics 

(Cambridge University Press, 2015)

About the book

Inequality and taxation are fundamental problems of modern times. How and when can democracies tax economic elites? This book develops a theoretical framework that refines and integrates the classic concepts of business's instrumental (political) power and structural (investment) power to explain the scope and fate of tax initiatives targeting economic elites in Latin America after economic liberalization.

In Chile, business's multiple sources of instrumental power, including cohesion and ties to right parties, kept substantial tax increases off the agenda.

In Argentina, weaker business power facilitated significant reform, although specific sectors, including finance and agriculture, occasionally had instrumental and/or structural power to defend their interests.

In Bolivia, popular mobilization counterbalanced the power of economic elites, who were much stronger than in Argentina but weaker than in Chile.

The book's in-depth, medium-N case analysis and close attention to policymaking processes contribute insights on business power and prospects for redistribution in unequal democracies. It also:

  • Examines less studied but critical areas of political economy, business power and taxation, and focuses on the politics of policy formulation and agenda setting;
  • Employs both rigorous process tracing and multiple structured, focused comparisons in a medium-N research design;
  • Includes engaging case studies drawing on more than 350 interviews and clear, accessible explanations of key tax issues.

See the publisher's page here.

Launch event

A launch event for the book will take place on Wednesday 13th May, 6:30-8:30pm, in 32 Lincolns Inn Fields (G.03).

Dr Fairfield will discuss the book and its issues with Dr Robert Falkner from the Department of International Relations and Professor David Soskice from the Department of Government.

See our events page for more details.

Formal endorsements

Despite long-standing concerns about economic inequality in Latin America and the growing attention to social policies that might address these concerns, there has been remarkably little political economy research on the tax side of these issues. Tasha Fairfield’s new book, Private Wealth and Public Revenue in Latin America, takes an important step in filling this gap. Building on power resource theories, the book goes beyond the conventional focus on the impact of left parties and unions and shines a spotlight on the role and relative influence of business elites. The analysis combines a thorough theoretical discussion of the ‘structural’ and ‘instrumental’ power resources wielded by these elites with careful comparisons of tax policy politics in Chile, Argentina, and Bolivia. It is an excellent piece of scholarship on a badly neglected area of political economy research.

Robert Kaufman, Rutgers University

Tasha Fairfield’s impressive book revives and reconceptualizes crucial concepts of instrumental and structural power while also providing the definitive analysis of recent business politics in Chile, Argentina, and Bolivia. Fairfield’s innovative theoretical framework show how structural power interacts with other forms of business leverage and adroitly specifies how it operates even in shorter-term or narrower sectorial policies. This is a masterful combination of empirical research and theoretical development.

Ben Ross Schneider, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

About the author

Dr Tasha FairfieldTasha Fairfield, Assistant Professor in the Department of International Development, holds a PhD in political science from the University of California, Berkeley, and degrees in physics from Harvard University and Stanford University.

Dr Fairfield's research interests include democracy and inequality, business politics, policy formulation, and the political economy of development. Previously, she was a Hewlett Fellow at Stanford University's Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law, and a Visiting Fellow at the University of Notre Dame's Kellogg Institute for International Studies.

Her research has been supported by the Social Science Research Council, Fulbright-Hays, and the International Centre for Tax and Development.

Following the book, an article co-authored with Michel Jorratt (Director of the Chilean tax agency) is forthcoming in the Review of Income and Wealth journal. The data this contains has already been cited by Thomas Piketty on a high-profile trip to Chile following the country's major tax reform last year. You can see more in this Spanish article from the Chilean newspaper, Diario Financiero.

View Dr Fairfield's experts profile page.