The Politics of Inequality as Organised Spectacle: Why the Swiss Do Not Want to Tax the Rich

Patrick Emmenegger, Paul Marx

Publikation: Bidrag til tidsskriftTidsskriftartikelForskningpeer review


In 2015, Swiss voters had the opportunity to impose a tax on the super rich in a popular vote and thereby fund a redistributive policy. However, a large majority voted against its seemingly obvious self-interest and rejected the tax. We propose an explanation for this puzzling outcome, bridging the usually separate behavioralist and institutionalist perspectives on the politics of inequality. We start from the observation that political economy tends to neglect processes of preference formation. Theorising preferences as socially constructed, we show that interest groups played a major role in shaping the outcome of the vote. Business frames were multiplied through allied parties and the media and had a major impact on individual voting behaviour. In addition, we demonstrate that interest groups representing business interests derive the content of their communication from business’s structurally privileged position in the capitalist economy. Specifically, creating uncertainty about possible perverse effects of government policies on jobs and growth is a powerful tool to undermine popular support. Frames based on this structural power ultimately explain why the Swiss refrained from ‘soaking the rich.’.

TidsskriftNew Political Economy
Udgave nummer1
Sider (fra-til)103-124
StatusUdgivet - 2019
Udgivet eksterntJa


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