Taxation, State and Civil Society in Germany and the United States, 1750-1950
Conference at the German Historical Institute, Washington, D.C.,
March 18-21, 2004
Conveners: Dr. Alexander Nützenadel (Cologne University), Dr. Christoph Strupp (GHI)
Taxes are a fundamental element of modern industrial societies. They are based on the assumption that the individual citizen belongs to the larger community of the nation-state. In exchange, the state may demand contributions from its members to secure a financial basis for the broad range of public services it provides. Moreover, taxes are closely intertwined with economic and social policy in general. They closely mirror different economic and political traditions and social philosophies of the individual countries.
Our conference on "Taxation, State and Civil Society in Germany and the United States, 1750-1950" wants to take a look at the development of the modern tax systems in Germany and America from the perspective of political, cultural and economic history. It should lead to valuable insights into the historical development of different types of "tax cultures," and at the same time shed light on the complex relationship between those cultures and social and political developments in both countries in general. It follows a tradition of comparative German-American conferences at the German Historical Institute, that in recent years have focused on topics such as the experience of total war, consumer societies, the culture of rights, and republicanism and liberalism.
The conference will focus on the following topics:
The first session - Taxation, Economic Growth and Competition - will deal with questions of the political economy of taxation, with special emphasis on the significance of different "tax regimes" for the countries' economic development.
The second session - Taxation, Civil Society and State-Building - will shed light on the importance of tax and financial institutions for the formation of the modern state. It will also discuss the connection between tax systems and citizens' demands for political participation. Taxes define rights of political participation in elections and parliaments, but tax laws also mirror meritocratic and egalitarian principles of modern societies. Therefore, taxes can be interpreted as a hinge between the state and civil society.
This leads into the third session - Taxation and Protest - which will take on social resistance against taxation. Aspects of formal opposition in political institutions like parliaments will be covered, as will be popular protest movements or hidden resistance to taxation in the form of tax evasion and avoidance.
A fourth session - Taxation, Crisis and War - will deal with the question of how situations of national crisis, wars and external threats, have influenced taxation policy. Especially the world wars placed financial burdens on both countries that could hardly be met by instruments of traditional financial politics and led to intense political and academic debates on both sides of the Atlantic.
The fifth session - Income, Wealth and Consumption - will address the question how taxes were used to redistribute income and wealth, and how taxation became a decisive instrument of social policy.
Proposals (one page abstract and a brief c.v. including postal and e-mail address) should be submitted by e-mail to both conveners no later than June 8, 2003.
Preference will be given to proposals addressing issues in a larger historical context even if engaged in local or case studies. The German Historical Institute will cover participants' lodging and travel expenses in the form of a lump sum.
For further information, please see the GHI's web site.
Dr. Christoph Strupp
German Historical Institute
1607 New Hampshire Ave., NW
Washington, D.C. 20009
Tel.: (202) 387-3355
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