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
Date Written: 2001
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: Suggested Citation