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A Critical Evaluation of Romantic Depictions of the Informal Economy

Listed author(s):
  • Colin C. Williams
  • John Round

The conventional portrayal of the formal/informal economy dichotomy endows the formal economy with positive attributes and the informal economy with negative characteristics. Recently, this hierarchy has been inverted by scholars portraying the informal economy positively as a chosen alternative and path to progress. This paper evaluates critically this emergent representation. Reporting a study of the informal economy in the Ukraine conducted in 2005/2006, a diverse array of informal economic practices are identified that amongst some groups represent an involuntary means of livelihood but amongst others a chosen alternative and some of which seem beneficial and others deleterious to economic development and social cohesion. The outcome is a call to transcend simplistic binary hierarchical depictions of the formal economy as “bad”/informal economy as “good” (or the inverse) and towards a finer-grained and more nuanced understanding of the diverse forms of informal work and their varying consequences for economic development and social cohesion.

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Article provided by Taylor & Francis Journals in its journal Review of Social Economy.

Volume (Year): 66 (2008)
Issue (Month): 3 ()
Pages: 297-323

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Handle: RePEc:taf:rsocec:v:66:y:2008:i:3:p:297-323
DOI: 10.1080/00346760801932700
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