Accepted Paper:

The principles of informality in times of crisis  


Stamatis Amarianakis (Universitat de Barcelona)

Paper short abstract:

In times of crisis informal economic activities are on the rise. This paper aims to assess the principles that guide informal economic activities and examine the various ways informality and formality interact.

Paper long abstract:

In times of crisis, as Wolf (1989) has argued, the organization of society becomes most visible. Following Wolf, I consider the informal economic sector as a deeply embedded social arrangement that has come to the surface. My field-site, Chalkida, Greece, a mid-sized city at the periphery of Athens is highly challenged by the effects of imposed austerity. It appears as an ideal case to analyze how the informal and the formal sector co-operate, compete, intersect and interact. Informal economic activities are very common among my informants because informality is a matter of life or death and/or because it is considered as an act of resistance. However, it is very common for these two driving forces of informality to coincide. Hence, observing ethnographically the interaction of subsistence and resistance both in practice and discourse can provide valuable insights and enhance our understanding of informality in the context of the persisting economic crisis. In this paper I will focus on the multiplicity of informal practices, on people's understandings of what acting informally is, on why they resist formalizing their activities, on policies and structures that aim to regulate informal economic practices and on the material and ideological motives the State facilitates in order to formalize informality.

Panel P148
Ethnographic explorations of formal–informal linkages in contemporary global economy and politics