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27-31 August 2019
Poznań, Poland
Europe/Warsaw timezone
programme last update: 23 August 2019
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Contribution Paper

Poznań, Poland - Morasko Kampus, room: 3.106

Give a man a tax haven - an anthropology of real-world politics of distribution


  • Dr. Patrick NEVELING

Primary authors


With the release of the so-called Panama Papers, a widespread network of tax havens and offshore shell-companies hit global newsrooms like a bombshell. Numerous enquiries from critical journalist networks and national tax agencies followed. What this and further document released since revealed is that a significant share of global fiscal transactions happens beyond the radar of national tax authorities. Economic historians and critical scholars from other disciplines have since argued that the roots of this network of tax havens date back to the 1920s. This paper amends James Ferguson’s felicitous concept of “politics of distribution” so that it applies to real-world situations of distribution under advanced capitalist conditions, namely to tax havens and tax evasion. Building on case studies from the above-mentioned enquiries into the world of tax havens and tax evasion and also on my own long-term research on Mauritius, one of the world’s leading tax havens, and on special economic zones, where corporations enjoy so-called tax holidays as one among several investment incentives, I suggest an anthropological theory of anti-social exchanges in contemporary capitalism that is able to capture the widespread practice of individuals and corporations that refuse to pay their fair share and do not contribute to national redistributive systems.