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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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“They are with the Others”: From Gossip to Stigmatization, Romanian Civil Society through an Informal Perspective


The polysemous concept of civil society, studied by many scholars in different theoretical perspectives, is still widely discussed, especially in the context of Central and Eastern Europe, where it has become a recurrent topic in the democratization process. In 1989, most scholars argued about the “rise of civil society” and its role of counter power between the state and the market (Molnar, 1990; Di Palma, 1991). During the liberalization process, civil society aimed to support the new democratic institutions and to control the emergence of capitalism. Therefore, in the early 1990s civil society was defined by a liberal paradigm and studied through theoretical perspectives with a strong normative approach (Bernhard, 1993).

At the turn of the twenty-first century, scholars have to face the reality of this “third sphere”: civil society has not developed according to their expectations and many authors tried to find explanations for this (Green, 2002). The case of Romania particularly illustrates this trend because of the lack of political dissidence under the communist regime and the violent revolution of December 1989: it is considered as an “exception” in the region (Tismaneanu, 2001). Scholars who had expected strong civic associations to appear focus on the factors that slowed their development: path dependency and the legacy of communism, economic factors and poverty, the Orthodox religion (which does not encourage charity), and so forth.

The literature has focused, on the one hand, on normative aspects and expectations about “civil society” in top-down approaches, as...

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