A Critical Evaluation of Romantic Depictions of the Informal Economy

Review of Social Economy Vol. 66, No. 3, pp. 297-323, 2008

Posted: 13 Dec 2015

See all articles by Colin Williams

Colin Williams

University of Sheffield - School of Management

John Round

University of Birmingham

Date Written: December 12, 2008

Abstract

The conventional portrayal of the formal/informal economy dichotomy endows the formal economy with positive attributes and the informal economy with negative characteristics. Recently, this hierarchy has been inverted by scholars portraying the informal economy positively as a chosen alternative and path to progress. This paper evaluates critically this emergent representation. Reporting a study of the informal economy in Ukraine conducted in 2005/06, a diverse array of informal economic practices are identified that amongst some groups represent an involuntary means of livelihood but amongst others a chosen alternative and some of which seem beneficial and others deleterious to economic development and social cohesion. The outcome is a call to transcend simplistic binary hierarchical depictions of the formal economy as “bad”/informal economy ias “good” (or the inverse) and towards towards a finer-grained and more and more nuanced understanding of the diverse forms of informal work and their varying consequences for economic development and social cohesion.

Keywords: informal sector, underground economy, economic development, Ukraine, post-socialist societies

JEL Classification: H26, J46, K42, O17

Suggested Citation

Williams, Colin and Round, John, A Critical Evaluation of Romantic Depictions of the Informal Economy (December 12, 2008). Review of Social Economy Vol. 66, No. 3, pp. 297-323, 2008, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2702751

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

John Round

University of Birmingham ( email )

Edgbaston, Birmingham B15 2TT
United Kingdom

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