Informality, Economy and Institutions
|Frau Prof. Katharina Bluhm
Di 14:00-16:00 Uhr
General course description Over the last two decades, informality has become a crucial topic in sociology, anthropology, and comparative politics. The concept of the "informal economy" was born in the Third World, out of a series of studies on urban labor markets (Portes & Haller 2005: 404). With the foundation of the "New Economic Sociology", the social embeddedness of markets, and with it the "real functioning of markets", moved into the center of this discipline. The attention in comparative politics was fueled by a growing body of research on Latin America, Eastern Europe and Eurasia, Africa and Asia, suggesting that many "rules of the game" are "informal-created, communicated, and enforced outside of officially sanctioned channels" (Helmke & Levitsky 2004: 725). Having a boarder comparative perspective in mind, the course focuses on Eastern Europe and Russia. We start with the theoretical background of informality, informal markets, and formal-informal institutions. In the former state-socialist countries, informality had been an unintended flipside of the centralized planning system and authoritarianism that penetrated almost all spheres of social life. In many of these countries, informality has even deeper historical roots, especially in the former Russian Empire. In the course of transition towards the market economy, informality did not vanish but become even more widespread. The course looks at continuity and changes of informality in the region, tries to answer the question why informality is still so widespread there, how differences between countries in this regard can be explained, and how informality affects everyday life, work as well as the behavior of the elites.