Rethinking Fiscal Relations: The Sociology of Public Finances in the Twenty-First Century

Conference | June 23–24, 2022

We live in exciting times for students of public finances. While years of austerity after 2010 brought stagnation and pushed states’ crises responses onto monetary policies and other versions of “budget-neutral” interventions, even before COVID-19, discussions intensified about proactive fiscal policy, the need for transformative investments, and redistribution. Yet, it is uncertain whether states will be capable of using public finances effectively to address the enormous challenges arising from rising inequalities, ongoing global warming, and fragile democracies.

At this conference, we shall discuss this conjuncture in light of foundational questions of sociology. How are fiscal relations restructured and re-politicized in light of societal change? How are core categories that qualify such relations – obligation, entitlement, promise etc. – being renegotiated? How do the structures of fiscal relations define constraints and opportunities for politicians to use public finances for redistributive and/or transformative purposes? And how do the fields, procedures, and instruments of fiscal and financial policies shape the range of possibilities available for state intervention? We will ask these questions with a primary focus on three empirical areas: fiscal policies and budgeting; public policies using financial tools; and public debt and financialization.

We see this conference as an opportunity to combine diagnoses about current fiscal and financial policies with thorough discussions on foundational issues in new fiscal sociology, the sociology of finance, and the growing body of works that are situated at the intersections of these two fields. For that purpose, we aim to bring together political as well as economic sociologists, with political economists, and scholars from other disciplines, whose empirical and conceptual contributions can advance our understanding of evolving fiscal relations and core public finance institutions in advanced capitalist states.

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