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Home > Publications > Working Paper Series > Taxation and Forced Labor: The Two Bodies of the Citizen in Modern (...)

Taxation and Forced Labor: The Two Bodies of the Citizen in Modern Political Theology

By Luigi Marco Bassani and Carlo Lottieri

Wednesday 7 July 2021, by IREF

WP 2021-03.

In this article we will show that there is nothing innocent about taxation. We will investigate the various relations of the subject with political authority for the purpose of showing that monetarization of political exploitation did not modify the essence of domination. The sacralization of the physical body of the subject – torture, killing and being killed in the name of the state are constantly decreasing – has in fact paved the road for the exploitation of the second body of the citizen, the one that produces wealth.

We live in a world in which the dominant political outlook is still a watered-down Marxism, based on the belief that any dimension – that of force, wealth and thought, and therefore of politics, economics, and culture – can generate domination and thwart freedom. Consequently, in most Western countries the crisis of one of the pillars of free society, the contract, derives precisely from the Marxist notion that a contractual and free relationship among consenting adults is only a chimera.

While coercion had various and rather ruthless forms in premodern times, with the birth of the state the expansion of taxation has increasingly become the negation of a visible brutality. From the age of the Enlightenment it became necessary to free the body as much as possible from any extreme mode of domination: control was inevitably mediated by taxation.

As Ernst Kantorowicz pointed out, the origins of the separation between the king as a person and the king as a function originated in the medieval age and had precise consequences for the forms of ownership and resource extraction by the public apparatus. The same could be said of the two bodies on the subject. Taxation increased the budget of the prince and introduced a sort of rationalization. The Enlightenment period marked the beginning of the fiscal state, a perfect marriage of modern rationality and new forms of domination. In this age German cameralism developed a study of the functioning of government which was one of the main pillars in the creation of a modern public finance system.

This process opened the door to an unlimited power of the rulers over the subjects, producing an abstract notion of freedom. The humanization of the relationship between rulers and ruled was purely formal, as the old visible power of corvée was replaced by a new one, based on the systematic extortion of money. Tax imposition rendered political exploitation less painful, but at the same time it inaugurated an intensification of domination unparalleled in previous history.

The objective of the new political community envisioned by Rousseau in the Social Contract consists in restoring a humanity that civilization and progress have disfigured. Rousseauian moral outlook and Kantian political philosophy produced the notion that a radical freedom of thinking is coupled with a religious reverence for state power. The modern citizen of the new political society has two bodies, because he is both a human being and a political subject.

The main ideologic element of the tax state can be found in the notion of “fiscal exchange.” The idea is that the political process can be compared to a kind of market process because the benefits of government decisions and their costs are supposed totally internalized by the agents, but the reality is different and this concealment allows the unlimited expansion of the power of the ruling class.

Some historians have seen high taxation as the decisive cause of Rome’s downfall. After almost two millennia, Western civilization could implode again and for similar reasons, but the two bodies of the subject, i.e., the veil of ignorance of modernity, will render impossible to comprehend how it happened and why.

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https://en.irefeurope.org/Publications/Working-Paper-Series/article/Taxation-and-Forced-Labor-The-Two-Bodies-of-the-Citizen-in-Modern-Political-Theology

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