Beyond Profit-Motivated Exchange: Some Lessons from the Study of Paid Informal Work

European Urban and Regional Studies, Vol. 8, No. 1, pp.49-61, 2001

14 Pages Posted: 6 Jul 2013

See all articles by Colin Williams

Colin Williams

University of Sheffield - School of Management

Jan E. Windebank

University of Sheffield - Department of French

Date Written: 2001

Abstract

The aim of this paper is to evaluate critically whether under a market system, monetary exchange is always and everywhere based on profit-seeking behavior. To do this, the paper examines paid informal work, a form of work conventionally conceptualized as low paid employment heavily imbued with profit motivations on the part of both the consumer and supplier. Using in-depth interviews with 400 households in UK lower-income urban neighborhoods, however, this paper shows that most paid informal exchange is seldom undertaken by either purchasers or suppliers to achieve maximum money gains. Instead, it is mostly conducted for and by close social relations for reasons associated with redistribution and sociality. In line with recent developments in the new economic geography, therefore, this paper points not only to the social-embeddedness of paid informal exchange but also how, at least in these lower-income neighborhoods, the increasing penetration of monetary exchange has not marched hand-in-hand with market relations. In this extensive and growing sphere of monetary exchange, the profit-motive is largely absent. Consequently, rather than construing paid informal work as the ultimate manifestation of unbridled profit-motivated capitalism, this paper instead shows such work to be a large resistant space within contemporary capitalism where monetary exchange is embedded in alternative social relations, motivations and pricing mechanisms.

Keywords: informal employment, informal economy, shadow economy, undeclared work, Europe, monetary exchange, money, favors

JEL Classification: O17, H26, H31

Suggested Citation

Williams, Colin and Windebank, Jan E., Beyond Profit-Motivated Exchange: Some Lessons from the Study of Paid Informal Work (2001). European Urban and Regional Studies, Vol. 8, No. 1, pp.49-61, 2001 , Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2289931 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2289931

Colin Williams (Contact Author)

University of Sheffield - School of Management ( email )

15 Conduit Road
Sheffield, S10 1FL
United Kingdom

HOME PAGE: http://https://www.sheffield.ac.uk/management/staff/williams/index

Jan E. Windebank

University of Sheffield - Department of French ( email )

United Kingdom
(0114) 222 4888 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://www.shef.ac.uk/french/staff/jwindebank.html

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