Graduate student Yueran Zhang publishes paper in Theory and Society

Graduate student Yueran Zhang has published a paper, “Political Competition and Two Modes of Taxing Private Homeownership: A Bourdieusian Analysis of the Contemporary Chinese State,” in Theory and Society 49(4): 669-707.

Abstract: In 2011, two Chinese municipalities, Chongqing and Shanghai, enacted a property tax on rich homeowners. However, the two municipal governments sharply diverged in their designs of the tax and the justifying frames used. Whereas Chongqing explicitly framed the tax as a redistributive measure targeting the economic elite, Shanghai framed it as an ad hoc technical intervention in the housing market that would antagonize no one. This article explains how the only two Chinese cities that introduced this unconventional tax ended up enacting the tax in such different ways. In doing so, this article proposes a theoretical framework synthesizing two main pillars of Bourdieu’s state theory – a conceptualization of the state as a field of competition, and a careful consideration of the symbolic dimension of state power. The political competition in which the top leaders of the two municipalities were engaged drove them to enact the tax. The positions these leaders occupied in the field of competition shaped their specific strategies of accumulating competition-specific capital, getting their capital noted and recognized by other players in the field, and theatricalizing their capital-seeking acts as serving some universal interest. These dynamics gave rise to divergent styles of enacting the tax.