Publisher: African Studies Association

Incalculable Payments: Money, Scale, and The South African offshore Grey Money Amnesty

Bill Maurer
KEYWORDS: Incalculable Payments: Money, Scale, and the South African Offshore Grey Money Amnesty


This article seeks to refine conceptually the social study of finance and thus to extend the argument of Jane Guyer'sMarginal Gains (2004). Using the case of the South African “grey money” amnesty, this article argues that social studies of finance have failed to pay adequate attention to social payments, as opposed to market exchanges, in their pronouncements about the extension of the calculative rationality and universal commensuration that are supposedly intrinsic to modern money. The amnesty, which allowed forgiveness for offshore tax evasion in return for a one-time payment, reconfigured “tax minimizers” as law-abiding and rational economic actors hedging against risk. Most took the opportunity; they were granted amnesty to repatriate their funds, which generated a significant boost in revenue for the South African state, with social and symbolic implications. This article reflects on what purchase is gained on the amnesty and the social study of finance generally by considering the amnesty as a series of payments, rather than cross-boundary financial transactions between individuals, trusts, and states.

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