From Self-Government to Government of the Self: Fiscal Subjectivity, Indigenous Governance and the Politics of Transparency
Published in Critical Social Policy (2020)
Abstract: In 2013 the Canadian Parliament passed the First Nations Financial Transparency Act (FNFTA). Subject to immediate controversy, the law inspired legal and political resistance from First Nations and Indigenous leaders and scholars. The law requires First Nations governments to post audited consolidated financial statements and the salaries of chiefs and councilors online for public consumption. The paper traces the use of transparency as a technology of government to examine how disclosure acts as an organizing mechanism of commensuration and moral scrutiny. The paper then shows how transparency and disclosure was directed to rescale critique of the state away from the Canadian government, and toward First Nations governments. The paper concludes by examining how bureaucrats envisioned how Indigenous peoples would use transparency and disclosure to reform their political conducts into that of a calculating taxpayer citizenship.
Taxpayer Governmentality: Governing Government in Metro Vancouver’s Tax Debate
Published in Economy and Society (2017)
Abstract: In a 2015 plebiscite, Metro Vancouver, BC voters rejected a proposed sales tax dedicated to funding a regional transportation plan. Opposition was spearheaded by a taxpayer group that focused on perceived incompetence, and wastefulness of the region’s transportation authority. Exercising a liberal imperative of ‘permanent critique of government’, the taxpayer group assembled evidence addressed to ‘taxpayers’. Developing a theoretical account of ‘taxpayer governmentality’, the paper analyzes how people are addressed and fashioned as taxpayer subjects, empowered and responsibilized to govern government, and their own political conducts as sceptical, calculating, non-political, economic actors. The paper concludes by suggesting that this taxpayer subject may be productive for understanding the practice of liberal critique, and limitation of the state.
Mobilizing Political Strategy: The Global Practices of Taxpayer Groups
Published in Political Ideology in Parties, Policy, and Civil Society (Edited by David Laycock), UBC Press (2019)
Abstract: Taxpayer groups operate at multiple scales and throughout much of the developed world, and increasingly in developing states. The strategic imperative of these groups is to provide what Foucault (2008) called ‘permanent political criticism’ of any exercise of governing, to encourage what I call ‘taxpayer reason’. Drawing upon ‘governmentality studies’ literature (Dean 2010), and growing policy mobility literature (McCann 2011), the paper uses ethnographic and textual accounts to show how concepts, and practices circulate through this global political network. To effectively exercise this ‘permanent political critique’ taxpayer groups share campaign ideas, infrastructures, policies, best practices, and other methods of collaboration and learning. In addition to exploring the politics of taxpayer groups, the paper underlines the methodological importance of studying how concepts, strategies, and practices move and mutate across scales, states, and political contexts.