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Informality in Eastern Europe

Structures, Political Cultures and Social Practices


Edited By 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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Social Representations of Informality: the Roma Case


François Ruegg

Social Representations of Informality: the Roma1 Case

What is Informality?

Informality is commonly seen as a way of handling all kinds of negotiations, situations and human relations without using or referring to the legal/formal framework or an expected politically or morally correct code of conduct. Hence, generally speaking, informality has negative connotations.

In the social, economic and political sciences, informality is essentially considered as pertaining to the economic sector or even to labour alone. Nowadays informality deals mainly with the question of how people cope in “difficult circumstances”, particularly in the Third World. Since the early 2000s it has attracted the attention not only of social scientists but also of institutions like the World Bank, which commissioned research on informality in Latin America (Perry et al., 2007). Specialized networks are also concerned with the concept of informality.2 Since the early 1990s, NGOs dealing with child labour and street children have pledged to reconsider of the concept of informality in order to give it a more positive or constructive sense. Exposed to closer contact with the everyday life of the “working children” than international experts of intergovernmental institutions, these activists pledged that there were no other ways than informality to guarantee survival in those difficult circumstances. An interesting debate ensued within United Nations organizations, opposing children’s right to education (Unicef, Unesco) with children’s right to work (ILO). A distinction was established between informal work and exploitation. This is an example...

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