Evaluating the Persistence of Subsistence Work in Contemporary Economies: Some Lessons from Moscow
International Journal of Social Economics, Vol. 39 Iss: 9, 2012, pp. 721-737
18 Pages Posted: 21 Dec 2015
Date Written: 2012
Contrary to the view that the subsistence economy is some minor residue persisting in only a few peripheral enclaves of modern economies, the aim of this paper is to begin to chart the importance and prevalence of subsistence work across the contemporary economic landscape and the reasons underpinning engagement in this form of non-commodified labour.
To do so, the extent of, and reasons for, subsistence production amongst those living in contemporary Moscow is evaluated using face-to-face interviews with 313 households in affluent, mixed and deprived districts.
This survey finds that subsistence work is a ubiquitous phenomenon which is heavily relied on by Muscovite households. Until now, those participating in such subsistence work have been portrayed either as rational economic actors, dupes, seekers of self-identity, or simply doing so out of necessity or choice. Rather than depict one as correct and the others as invalid, this survey inductively generates a theoretically-integrative approach which differentiates between ‘willing’ (rational economic actors, choice, identity seeking) and ‘reluctant’ (economic and market necessity, dupes) participants in subsistence production.
This survey only examines one city. Further research is now required of the extent of, and reasons for, subsistence production in the rest of Central and Eastern Europe as well as beyond.
This is one of the first papers to identify and explain the ubiquitous persistence of subsistence work in contemporary economies.
Keywords: subsistence economy, self-service economy, domestic work, housework, livelihoods, Moscow, Russia
JEL Classification: H26, J46, J48, K34, K42, O17
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