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“Work pays”

Slovak neoliberalism as “authoritarian populism”

Nicolette Makovicky

Focusing on the implementation of the New Social Policy in January 2004 and the social unrest that followed, this article traces the discursive construction of welfare dependence as a “Romani” problem through the creation of a media-led “moral panic”. Situating this “moral panic” within the wider context of competing populist narratives in postsocialist Slovakia, it argues that the ethnicization of the unrest constituted a rearticulation of nationalist populist symbols into liberal political logic. Employed by the opposition, the first of these narratives posited liberalization as the dispossession of the working majority by corrupt elites. This was countered by a second narrative presented by the center-right coalition that posited welfare as a system of “just rewards” for those willing to work, while constructing the Romani minority as social deviants. As such, it appeared to be a variant of what Stuart Hall has called “authoritarian populism”: an attempt by the leading coalition to harness popular discontents in order to justify exceptional levels of government intervention into social life.

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Tax Beyond the Social Contract

Nicolette Makovicky and Robin Smith


This special issue decenters tax as an analytic device for understanding the relationship between state and citizen while examining the limits of social contract thinking. Focusing on how citizens interpret and react to state efforts to promote fiscal citizenship, it sheds light on contemporary fiscal structures and public debates about the moralities, practices, and imaginaries of tax systems. The contributors use tax to explore the nature of citizenship, personal freedom, and moral and economic value. They also highlight how taxation may be influenced by spaces of fiscal sovereignty that exist outside or alongside the state in the form of alternative religious and economic communities.