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11 - Improving Tax Administration in Contemporary African States: Lessons from History

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  13 January 2010

Isaac William Martin
Affiliation:
University of California, San Diego
Ajay K. Mehrotra
Affiliation:
Indiana University, Bloomington
Monica Prasad
Affiliation:
Northwestern University, Illinois
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Summary

It is now unfashionable to seek lessons from history. The overstatements resulting from various stage theories of history, most prominently modernization theory, and the current emphasis on the uniqueness of historical cases, has soured most contemporary sociologists on that endeavor. This is unfortunate, because rejecting the excesses of modernization theory and recognizing that all historical cases are in part unique does not mean that we cannot learn anything from the past that can inform policy in the present and future. Historical sociologists will be unable to contribute to public sociology unless we are able to show how our knowledge of the past can be useful to contemporary policy debates. The attempt to bring historical sociology and public sociology together should benefit both, providing a much needed historical dimension to policy making and broadening the audience for historical analyses.

In general terms, to extract useful lessons from history, we need to accomplish two related tasks. First, we need general theories with abstract scope conditions that facilitate the transportability of models and causal mechanisms across time and space. Second, we need detailed empirical analyses of the relevant initial conditions in the past and present societies being compared, to both reveal how they are similar (the basis for comparison), and how they are different (allowing us to tailor our recommendations to fit the unique features of particular cases).

We begin by using agency theory as a general model of tax administration (Kiser 1999; Klitgaard 1988; Rose-Ackerman 1978).

Type
Chapter
Information
The New Fiscal Sociology
Taxation in Comparative and Historical Perspective
, pp. 183 - 200
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2009

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