Accumulation by Taxploitation: A World-Systems Analysis of Offshore Tax Dodging and Its Evolving Impact on the Capitalist World-Economy
Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis
Related Research Unit(s)
The capitalist world-economy faces an unprecedented crisis of legitimacy closely resembling the structural crisis described in Immanuel Wallerstein’s world-systems analysis. But while the multitude of constitutive crises feeding into it – whether relating to financial instability, inequality, poverty, or the environment – have all been extensively covered by world-systems analysts, offshore tax dodging remains one of the most under-theorized dimensions of the capitalist world-economy. This is a surprising oversight, because the immense scale and uneven distributional impacts of offshore tax dodging corroborate much of what this approach is known for, and unlike the constitutive crises, offshore tax dodging has recently been swept up in a historic reform momentum that has actually resulted in notable legislative progress. The overarching aim of this dissertation is thus to incorporate offshore tax dodging into the macro-historical framework of world-systems analysis, and in that way not only revise the metanarrative of the capitalist world-economy, but also identify the full range of structural forces and actors behind this historic reform momentum, critically assessing its achievements and potential for further progress. Recasting offshore tax dodging and the resistance against it in their historical and systemic contexts, I demonstrate their deep embeddedness as both cause and effect in the structural dynamics that constitute the capitalist world-economy. I argue that offshore tax dodging has evolved into a phenomenon of enormous systemic significance, emerging as a major source of capital accumulation, serving as a spatio-temporal fix, and facilitating the rise and spread of neoliberalism, which in turn led to its own growth and consequent exacerbation of virtually every single facet that feeds into the contemporary crisis context. I argue that while this crisis context has been instrumental in forcing open a window of opportunity for the resistance, their achievements are in larger part attributable to a long list of offshore tax dodging-specific factors that far predate it. Nevertheless, I conclude by arguing that these achievements have been substantial, and that offshore tax dodging represents one of the most important and promising arenas of class struggle today.