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Informality in Eastern Europe

Structures, Political Cultures and Social Practices

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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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Formalization of the Informal: Statebuilding in Armenia

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Introduction

The study of informal governance, a new and rapidly developing field, is still delineating its scope and laying its main theoretical foundations. The relative immaturity of the field is reflected in the fact that it continues to call its very existence into question, debating the utility of the study of informal governance institutions or, more generally, of “informalities”, a term loosely used to describe the entire gamut of relationships, actors, institutions and procedures that affect governance but are not formally prescribed by legal documents or official regulations. There is an ongoing scientific discussion of whether “informal institutions” meet the wider criteria for “institutions” and, if so, whether informal institutions as opposed to formal ones represent a separate phenomenon that can be defined in scientific terms and is worthy of focused study (Christiansen and Neuhold, 2012). Within this debate, the question arises of distinguishing informality from culture in general, and elaborating criteria for discriminating informal institutions from formal ones (North, 1990). In this chapter, I will use the neoinstitutionalist approach to informality, which I believe serves best to describe the case in hand.

Parallel to the theoretical debates, the empirical body of research on informal governance has been rapidly growing due to studies conducted by scholars representing various disciplines, from political science to law and anthropology, in a wide variety of political, geographical and societal settings. Although the empirical data remain heterogeneous and do not always lend themselves to comparison due to numerous gaps...

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