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Informality in Eastern Europe

Structures, Political Cultures and Social Practices


Christian Giordano and Nicolas Hayoz

This volume deals with different aspects of informal structures and practices in Eastern Europe. Its objectives are twofold. It aims at discovering whether or to what extent informal structures and practices in Eastern Europe have meanings, functions, forms and effects different from those that can be observed in the politics and societies of Western Europe. The authors of this volume – most of them are from the region – have been invited to discuss the scientific relevance of the distinction informal / formal in their respective field of research or discipline. This points to the second objective of this volume which is to encourage a more fruitful interaction between disciplines that often disregard each other and which, despite inevitable and essential epistemological differences, have significant shared interests such as the comparative analysis of political phenomena in terms of elementary forms of social organization. The relation between informality and formality in a more methodologically pluralist and ultimately holistic way can be analysed via regards croisés between the disciplines anthropology, political science and sociology. This allows the extension of this comparative and multidisciplinary approach to other themes and phenomena of mutual interests.
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The Social Organization of Informality: The Rationale Underlying Personalized Relationships and Coalitions


Informality in the Public Sphere: An Embarrassing Topic for the Social Sciences

The notion of informality is frowned upon by social science experts and politicians alike. It has a terrible reputation. This contempt from anthropology and sociology stems from ethical-moral normative and methodological reasons.

Most probably this bad reputation was already present, albeit implicitly, in the founding works of the social sciences in which socially established or legally required behaviours in the modern Western world play a predominant and nearly exclusive role. According to the founding fathers of sociology and anthropology, these highly formalized social practices are the ones that ensure order and cohesion in a social body. Yet, the question of a society’s internal stability and integration – in accordance with this epistemological paradigm, which may broadly be defined as functionalist – is precisely the central concern of the newborn social sciences. We need only mention Emile Durkheim, for whom social research chiefly involved a systematic analysis of the various forms of social cohesion expressed in terms such as mechanical solidarity and organic solidarity (Durkheim, 1967). Everything that challenges and destroys social cohesion is a threat to the existence of a collectivity and is ultimately anomy – the utter lack of established, if not indeed legalized, rules. Consequently, due to its alleged lack of clearly defined rules, informality can easily be equated with anomic phenomena and thus with the worst enemies of society. ← 27 | 28 →

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