Informal practices in post-Communist societies

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Course syllabus

UNIVERSITY COLLEGE LONDON School of Slavonic and East European Studies

Informal Practices in Post-Communist Societies MA course 2018-2019 (20 contact hours)

Professor Alena Ledeneva

Form of assessment: one 3,000 words essay


DISCOVER the pervasive nature of informality;
IDENTIFY informal practices in post-communist societies and globally;
REFLECT on the ways of their identification;
ANALYSE political, legal, economic and social roots of informal practices;
COMPARE impact of informal practices in different regions of the world.


EXPLORE the Global Informality Project data set at;
LEARN about theoretical approaches and research methods for informality;
IMPROVE skills of searching for and working with academic literature in the library and online;
DEMONSTRATE ability to critically assess academic texts and to present arguments in a clear and structured form;
DEVELOP an in-depth knowledge on the topic selected for the examination essay;
ATTEMPT to create an encyclopaedia entry of publishable quality (on a particular practice) or exercise pattern recognition through a comparative analysis of existing entries.

Teaching and Learning Methods

The course work is organised as a SERIES OF SEMINARS, each based on four presentations by students and a group discussion to follow. Presentations are based on the readings provided for each theme and can include further sources found on Internet (via electronic databases). Discussions are related to informal practices in post-communist societies, with a comparative angle where possible.


The course is assessed 100% by coursework. ONE essay 3,000 words in length each should be written in accordance with the requirements outlined in the MA Handbook and submitted by the agreed deadline. An electronic copy should be submitted through the Turnitin (see Moodle). The essays are double-marked and examined externally. The best essays may be published.

Basic resources

Background reading

Textbook: Ledeneva, A. (2018) Global Encylopaedia of Informality. London: UCL Press.
Ledeneva, A. (1998) Russia's Economy of Favours: Blat, Networking and Informal Exchange. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Ledeneva, A. V. (2006) How Russia Really Works: The Informal Practices That Shaped Post-Soviet Politics and Business. Cambridge University Press, 2006.
Ledeneva, A.V. (2013) Can Russia Modernise. Sistema, Power Networks and Informal Governance. Cambridge UK: Cambridge University Press.
Ledeneva, A. (2008) 'Telephone Justice in Russia'. Post-Soviet Affairs, 24(4), 324-350.
Ledeneva, A. (2008) ‘Blat and Guanxi: Comparative Analysis of Informal Practices in Russia and China,’ Comparative Studies in Society and History Vol. 50(1), January 2008, pp. 118-141.

Class 1: Why study informality? How to assess the importance of informal practices across time, area and discipline? The key perspectives on informality

Finding resources

Introductory lecture on Informality and conceptions devised to approach it: difficulties of categorising informality – any model is too perfect to explain the imperfection and complexity of human societies

Format of presentations and handouts

Examination essays – Encyclopaedia entries as learning resources

Electronic tools for identifying informal practices: Search the web in order to find poll data, publications on informal practices in Russian and Western media accessible through the Eastview database, Lexisnexis and specifically discussions of the phenomenon; use the Google Scholar search engine and electronic journals (access via the Library catalogue). Search by keywords that are already in the Global Informality Project and browse the Global Encyclopaedia of Informality to identify equaivalent practices that are not in the collection. The challenge is to add new ones to the Global Informality Map!

Pattern recognition: Construct your own cluster of entries (see clusters in The Encyclopaedia table of contents)

Assignment: Add a practice to the Global Informality Map

Follow these steps to develop an entry to the Global Encyclopaedia of Informality.

(Several suggestions are listed here. Search for practices representing grey zones in categorisations of age, gender, ethnicity, and religion.)

Class 2: Reports on assignment

Please bring 20 printed handouts of your presentation for all or upload in the relevant folder in Class 2. Be prepared to report for 5 minutes.

Class 3: The informal made visible - Theoretical approaches and research methods for the hidden. Guest lecture by Cheris Shun-ching Chan, University of Hong Kong*

It may seem that formal rules/ organisations/ institutions are central to the operations of modern societies. These are certainly central in social sciences analyses (especially political sciences). However, historians would argue that informal norms have primacy over formal ones, as they have longer period of formation and are much more difficult to change. In some ways, informal norms constitute the foundation of formal norms (codified, legalised, declared). This class will look into the ways in which the taken for granted informal norms and forms of behaviour become visible, articulated, researched.

The nature of the hidden will be discussed, as will be the process of revealing/ concealing.

The waves of interest to informality and the existing blind spots of disciplinary analyses (for example, some informal practices emerge and can be changed easily) are in focus.

Modelling informality through cross-disciplinary perspecitives, and cross-area studies approaches (INFORM project).

Reading list for Class 3

Blundo, G., de Sardan, J-P.O. (eds.) (2006) Everyday Corruption and the State: Citizens and Public Officials in Africa, Zed Books. Chapter 1,4.

  • Cheris Shun-ching Chan, ‘Invigorating the Content in Social Embeddedness: An Ethnography of Life Insurance Transactions in China,’ AJS, 115 Number 3 (November 2009): 712–54

Giordano, C., Hayoz, N. (eds) Informality in Eastern Europe: Structures, Political Cultures and Social Practices. Reihe: Interdisciplinary Studies on Central and Eastern Europe - Band 11

Misztal, B. (1999) Informality: Social Theory and Contemporary Practice. Routledge. Chs 1,2,3,7,8

Moser, C.O. (1978) Informal sector or petty commodity production: dualism or dependence in urban development? World Development, 6(9-10), pp.1041-64

Hart, K. (1973). Informal income opportunities and urban employment in Ghana, The journal of modern African studies, 11(1), 61-89

Godfrey, P. C. 2011. Toward a theory of the informal economy, The Academy of Management Annals, 5(1): 231-277

  • Yang, M.M. (1994) Gifts, Favours and Banquets: The Art of Social Relationships in China. Ithaca & London: Cornell University Press

Class 4: How can informality be measured?

The measurability is largely associated with the size of informal economy but the term only ‘became current in the 1970s as a label for economic activities which take place outside the framework of [corporate public and private sector establishments]. It arose at first in response to the proliferation of self-employment and casual labour in Third World cities; but later the expression came to be used with reference to societies like Britain, where it competed with other adjectives describing deindustrialization – the “hidden”, “underground”, “black” economy, and so on’ (Hart 1987: 54). Reputation of informality as a jargon word has not helped the informal economy/sector to acquire’ conceptual importance. Its relationship to formality is often understood as based on “size (large-scale/small-scale), productivity (high/low), visibility (enumerated/unenumerated), pattern of rewards (wages/self-employment), market conditions (monopoly/competitive)” etc. (ibid. :56). In this class we will catalogue the existing measures of informality and assess their conceptual implications. For example, the GREY project ( has suggested that the informal economy may be higher the broader is the gap between individual and state morality. In other words, “where a citizen does not see the advantage of contributing to state development, or when s/he perceives the state as unreliable, not giving but only taking, or not giving enough, they are more likely to leave the game”. In this respect, economic actors may even perceive as “moral” not contributing to the state (and thus doing something stigmatised by state morality). Indeed, there is an increasing amount of work in the informal economy and the emergence of individual accounts that contrast with a state-led view on individual morality (see, among others, Van Schendel & Abrahams, 2005; Wanner, 2005, Morris, 2012; Morris & Polese, 2014; Polese & Rodgers, 2011, Kubik and Linch 2013).

Reading list for Class 4

See latest reports on informal economy.

Barsukova S., Radaev V. (2012) ’Informal Economy in Russia: A Brief Overview’, in Economic sociology - The European electronic newsletter. 13(2): 4-12,

Hart, K. (2009) On the Informal Economy: The Political History of an Ethnographic Concept,’ Universite Libre de Bruxelles Working papers CEB, available as pdf on and google scholar.

Morris, J. and Polese, A. (2013) The Informal Post-Socialist Economy: Embedded Practices and Livelihoods. London: Routledge.

La Porta, R., Shleifer, A. (2008) “The Unofficial Economy and Economic Development,” Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Fall, pp. 275-363, including “Comments and Discussion,” pp. 353-63.

Rodrik, Dani, “Second-Best Institutions,” NBER Working Paper 14050, June 2008.

Cross, JC (1998)[B] Informal politics: Street vendors and the state in Mexico City. Stanford University Press.

Maiti, Eibyendu and Kunal Sen, “The Informal Sector in India: A Means of Exploitation or Accumulation?” Journal of South Asian Development, Vol. 5 No. 1, 2010, pp. 1-13.

Smith, Daniel Jordan, “Kinship and Corruption in Contemporary Nigeria,” Ethnos: Journal of Anthropology, Vol 66, No. 3, 2001, pp. 344-64.

Portes, Castells and Benton, eds, The Informal Economy: Studies in Advanced and Less Developed Countries, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1989. Choose any chapters that seem interesting.

Class 5: Networks - From survival and trust to social media

In this class we will attempt to solve the ‘use of contacts’ puzzle. Although forms of corruption in the TI typology include nepotism, patron-client relationships, gifts, hospitality, revolving doors, there are few measurements that could help compare such practices. So far, the TI has relied on expert surveys. In 2013, the Global Corruption Barometer has introduced a question “In your dealings with the public sector, how important are personal contacts/relationships to get things done?” What do the numbers for 101 countries mean and tell? Are there differences in the used networks across different cultures? Are networks informal? Why are they associated with survival? Can networks be formal, generated, initiated? In which way are social media networks different?

Reading list for Class 5

Global Corruption Barometer data on the use of contacts in over 100 countries at

Granovetter, M. (1973) ‘The strength of weak ties’, American Journal of Sociology, 78(6), 1360-1380 and Granovetter, M, (1982) ‘The Strength of weak Ties: A Network Theory revisited’ in Peter Marsden and Nan Lin (eds) Social Structure and Network Analysis. London: Sage Publications.

Burt R.S. (1995) Structural Holes: The Social Structure of Competition. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, pp. 8-38.

Coleman J.S. (1988) ‘Free Riders and Zealots: The Role of Social Networks.’ Sociological Theory, 6: 52-57.

Gold, T., Guthrie, D. and D. Wank (eds.) (2002) Social Connections in China: Institutions, Culture, and the Changing Nature of Guanxi, New York: Cambridge University Press. Introduction and Chapters 1, 2, 4, 5 & 11.

Cunningham, R. B., & Sarayrah, Y.K. (1993). Wasta: The hidden force in Middle Eastern society. Praeger Publishers. Parts 1, 2, 4 & 7.

Cunningham, R.B. and Sarayrah, Y.K. (1994) “Taming Wasta to Achieve Development,” Arab Studies Quarterly, Vol. 16.

Al-Ramahi, A. (2008). Wasta in Jordan: A distinct feature of (and benefit for) Middle Eastern society. Arab Law Quarterly, 22(1), 35-62.

Duarte, F, (2011), “The Strategic Role of Charm, Simpatia and Jeitinho in Brazilian Society: A Qualitative Study,” Asian Journal of Latin American Studies 24(3), 29-48.

Dennis, L. E., & Stroh, L. K. (1997). A little jeitinho in Brazil: A case study on international management. Journal of Management Education, 21(2), 255-261.

Amado, G., & Vinagre Brasil, H. (1991). Organizational behaviors and cultural context: The Brazilian “Jeitinho”. International Studies of Management & Organization, 21(3), 38-61.

Dasgupta, P., & Serageldin, I. (Eds.). (2001). Social capital: a multifaceted perspective. World Bank Publications. [Find also Dasgupta in

Ledeneva, A. (2009) “From Russia with Blat: Can Informal Networks Help Modernize Russia?” Social Research 76 (1), 257-288.

Pichler, F., & Wallace, C. (2007). Patterns of formal and informal social capital in Europe. European sociological review, 23(4), 423-435.

Tilly, C. (2007, March). Trust networks in transnational migration. In Sociological Forum, 22(1), 3-24.

Ledeneva A. (2000) in Segbers, K. Explaining Post-Soviet Patchworks. Vol. 2. Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing. Chapters 2,3.

Luehrmann, S. (2004). Mediated marriage: internet matchmaking in provincial Russia. Europe-Asia Studies, 56(6), 857-875.

De Sa, V. M. M. (2011). Internet Piracy as a hobby: what happens when the Brazilian Jeitinho meets television downloading?. Global Media Journal-Australian Edition, 5(1).

Ledeneva,A. (2000). 'Russian Hackers and Virtual Crime' in Ledeneva,A., Kurkchiyan,M. (ed.) Economic Crime in Russia. London: Kluwer Law International, 163-175.

Rehn, A., & Taalas, S. (2004). ‘Znakomstva I Svyazi’(Acquaintances and connections)–Blat, the Soviet Union, and mundane entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurship & Regional Development, 16(3), 235-250.

Kuehnast, K. R., & Dudwick, N. (2004). Better a hundred friends than a hundred rubles?: social networks in transition--the Kyrgyz Republic (No. 39). World Bank Publications.

Mishler, W., & Rose, R. (2005). What are the political consequences of trust? A test of cultural and institutional theories in Russia. Comparative Political Studies, 38(9), 1050-1078.

Yakubovich, V. (2013). Getting a job as a favor in the Russian post-socialist labor market. Asia Pacific Journal of Management, 30(2), 351-372.

Grant, A. (2014.) Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson.

Class 6: Informal Governance in State-Business Relationship: Simulation game (work in groups)

Informality simulation game

Read the rules of the game and prepare to play by looking up the following sources:

Reading list for Class 6

Adachi, Y. (2010). Building Big Business in Russia: The Impact of Informal Corporate Governance Practices. London: Routledge.

Frye, T. (2002). ‘Capture or exchange? Business lobbying in Russia.’ Europe-Asia Studies, 54(7), 1017-1036.

Hosking, G. ‘Patronage and the Russian State,’ The Slavonic and East European Review, 2000, Vol. 78, No. 2, April, pp.301-320.

Hughes, J., John, P., and Sasse, G. (2002). ‘From Plan to Network: Urban elites and the Post‐communist Organisational State in Russia.’ European Journal of Political Research, 41(3), 395-420.

Kononenko, V. and Moshes, A. (eds.) (2011) Russia as a Network State: What Works in Russia When State Institutions Do Not? Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 39-61.

Minbaeva, D.B., Muratbekova-Touron, M. (2013) Clanism: Definition and Implications for Human Resource Management, Management International Review 53:109–139.

Barnett, A., Yandle, B., & Naufal, G. (2013). Regulation, trust, and cronyism in Middle Eastern societies: The simple economics of “wasta”. The Journal of Socio-Economics, 44, 41-46.

Darden, Keith A. 2001. “Blackmail as a Tool of State Domination: Ukraine under Kuchma.” East European Constitutional Review 10, 2/3 (Spring/Summer), pp. 67-71.

  • Ledeneva, A. and Stanislav Shekshnia (2011). “Doing Business in Russia: Informal practices and Anti-Corruption Strategies” Russie.Nei.Visions, No.58, March. In French, English and Russian, at
  • Shekshnia, S., Ledeneva, A. & Denisova-Schmidt, E. (2017). Managing Business Corruption: Targeting Non-Compliant Practices in Systemically Corrupt Environments. The Slavonic and East European Review, 95(1), 151-174.

Van Assche, K., Shtaltovna, A., & Hornidge, A. K. (2013). Visible and Invisible Informalities and Institutional Transformation in the Transition Countries of Georgia, Romania, and Uzbekistan. Informality in Eastern Europe: Structures, Political Cultures and Social Practices, 11, 89-118.

Class 7: Informal governance - Beyond the dichotomy of formal/informal institutions

Although I am very enthuisiastic about revolutionizing the notion of institutions defined by Douglas North as ‘rules of the game’ or humanely designed constraints of both formal and informal nature, I am not keen on the notion of informal institutions. The main reason is that the usage of this term infers a dichotomy – informal vs. formal institutions - that contradicts North’s more subtle idea. The second reason is applying the logic of formal institutions to social norms, presuming similar predictability, institutional lock-in, rule-following etc. The third reason is that formalization is presumed to be a solution, while informalisation is associated with problems. Finally, it is the ambivalence of informality that makes the formal/informal distinction rather difficult to pin down. Thus informal practices, networks, institutions (depending on the disciplinary conceptualization) can be a long-term stabilizing force that resist change, but also can be fluid, facilitating reforms, accommodating change, navigating and bending the rules, both written and unwritten. It might be useful instead to discuss the degree of visibility, regularity, predictability of informal practices amounting to the degree of institutionalization (from tactics/strategies distinction by De Certeau towards practices that have established themselves as following universal social norms and taboos). We will explore forms and patterns of informal governance that are complex and supersede clear divides into formal/informal; public/private; written/unwritten; codified-non-codified; legal/illegal; legitimate/illegitimate.

Reading list for Class 7

Baez Camargo, C. and Ledeneva, A. (2017) Where Does Informality Stop and Corruption Begin? Infromal Governance and the Public.Private Crossover in Mexico, Russia and Tanzania’, Slavonic and East European Review, 95(1), January, pp. 49-75.

North, D. C. (1990) Institutions, Institutional Change and Economic Performance. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

North, Douglass C.,”Institutions,” Journal of Economic Perspectives, Vol. 5 No. 1, Winter 1991, pp. 97-112.

Helmke, G. & Levitsky, S. (2004). Informal Institutions and Comparative Politics: A Research Agenda. Perspectives on Politics, 2, 4, 725-740. (available online)

Christiansen,T. & Neuhold, C. (2012) International Handbook on Informal Governance. Cheltenham UK: Edward Elgar. Choose a chapter of interest.

Lauth, H.J. (2004) “Formal and Informal Institutions: On Structuring Their Mutual Co-Existence” Romanian Journal of Political Sciences, 4(1).

Lauth, H. J. (2012). Informal governance and democratic theory. International handbook on informal governance, 40-64.

Hein, W., & Moon, S. (2013). Informal Norms in Global Governance. Human Rights, Intellectual Property Rules and Access to Medicines. Farnhem: Ashgate.

Akhtar, S., Aziz, Z. A., Hefner, R. W., Thani, N. N., Venardos, A., Vogel, F. E., & Warde, I. (2008). Understanding Islamic finance: Local innovation and global integration. Asia policy, 6(1), 1-14.

Ledeneva, A. (2011) 'Informality and Informal Politics' in Gill, G., Young, J. (eds.) Routledge Handbook of Russian Politics and Society, London and NY: Routledge, 375-386.

Christiansen,T, Neuhold, C. 2012. International Handbook on Informal Governance. Cheltenham UK: Edward Elgar.

de Sardan, J. P. O. (2013). The bureaucratic mode of governance and practical norms in West Africa and beyond. In Local Politics and Contemporary Transformations in the Arab World (pp. 43-64). Palgrave Macmillan UK.

Ledeneva,A. 2013. Can Russia Modernize? Sistema, Power Networks and Informal Governance. Cambridge UK: Cambridge University Press. Chapter 7

Ledeneva, A. V. (2013). Russia's Practical Norms and Informal Governance: The Origins of Endemic Corruption. Social research, 80(4), 1135-1162.

Juurikkala, T. & Lazareva, O. (2006). Lobbying at the local level: Social assets in Russian firms BOFIT Discussion Papers, 1 (April).

Isaacs, R., & Polese, A. (2016). Nation-building and identity in the post-Soviet space: new tools and approaches. Routledge.

Sharafutdinova, G. (2011) Political Consequences of Crony Capitalism inside Russia, University of Notre Dame Press.

Johnson, J.E. (2014) Pussy Riot as a feminist project: Russia's gendered informal politics, Nationalities Papers.

Class 8: The ambivalence of informal practices - Are they subversive or supportive?

The research question whether the boundaries between informality and corruption, between sociability and instrumentality, between subversiveness and supportiveness can be drawn cannot be answered with the help of definitions. Analytical distinctions prove useless in the face of practices embedded in particular sets of constraints, practical norms and ‘moral economies’ (de Sardan 1999, 2008). If I am asked to give a one-word clue to identify the missing bit in the puzzle of crossing such boundaries, this is ‘ambivalence.’ In its sociological sense, ambivalence, in the definition of Robert Merton, refers to incompatible normative expectations of attitudes, beliefs, and behaviour. The incompatibility is assigned to a status and the social structures that generate the circumstances in which ambivalence is embedded (Merton 1976: 6-7). The core type of sociological ambivalence puts contradictory demands upon the occupants of a status in a particular social relation. Since these norms cannot be simultaneously expressed in behaviour, they come to be expressed in an oscillation of behaviours: of detachment and compassion, of discipline and permissiveness, of personal and impersonal treatment” (Merton 1976: 8). The implications of substantive, functional or normative ambivalence are essential for understanding complexity, associated with fragmentation and failure of manageability.

Reading list for Class 8

Ledeneva, A. (2018). Global Encyclopaedia of Informality. London: UCL Press.

Brkovic, C. (2017). Managing Ambiguity: How Clientelism, Citizenship, and Power Shape Personhood in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Berghahn Books.

Merton, R.K. (1976) Sociological Ambivalence and Other Essays. New York, NY: The Free Press.

Coleman, J.C. (1988) “Social capital in the creation of human capital,” American journal of sociology.

Portes, A. “The downside of social capital,” The American Prospect, 1996

Bourdieu, P. (1990) The Logic of Practice. Translated by Richard Nice. Cambridge: Polity Press. Introduction, Chapter 5

Deleuze, G., & Guattari, F. (1988). A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Bloomsbury Publishing.

Marcus, G. E., & Saka, E. (2006). Assemblage. Theory, culture & society, 23(2-3), 101-106.

North, D., Wallis, J., Weingast, B. 2006. ‘A Conceptual Framework for Interpreting Recorded Human History,’ NBER Working Paper No. 12795, December.

de Sardan, J.P.O. 2008. Researching the Practical Norms of Real Governance in Africa, Discussion Paper 5, London: Africa Power and Politics Programme.

de Sardan, J.P.O. (1999) ‘A Moral Economy of Corruption in Africa?’ Journal of Modern African Studies 37 (1), 25–52.

Li, L. (2011). Performing Bribery in China: guanxi-practice, corruption with a human face. Journal of Contemporary China, 20(68), 1-20.

Lin, J., & Si, S. X. (2010). Can guanxi be a problem? Contexts, ties, and some unfavorable consequences of social capital in China. Asia Pacific Journal of Management, 27(3), 561-581.

Duarte, F. (2006) ‘A double-edged sword: the 'jeitinho' as an ambiguous concept in the Brazilian imaginary,’ International journal of interdisciplinary social sciences, 1(1), 125-131.

Pilati Rodrigues, R., Milfont, T. L., Ferreira, M. C., Porto, J. B., & Fischer, R. (2011). Brazilian jeitinho: Understanding and explaining an indigenous psychological construct. Interamerican Journal of Psychology, 45(1), 29-38.

Ferreira, M. C., Fischer, R., Porto, J. B., Pilati, R., & Milfont, T. L. (2012). Unraveling the mystery of Brazilian Jeitinho: A cultural exploration of social norms. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 38(3), 331-344.

Gouldner, A. (1977) ‘The norm of reciprocity,’ in Friends, Followers and Factions: a reader in political clientelism edited by Steffen W. Schmidt. Berkeley; London: University of California Press.

Makovicky., N. Henig, D. (2017) Economies of Favor after Socialism. Oxford University Press. Chs. 1,2,3.

Ledeneva, A. in IEA Perspectives,

Ledeneva, A. (2011). “Open Secrets and Knowing Smiles,” East European Politics and Society, 25(4), November.

Rivkin-Fish, Michele (2005) Women’s Health in Post-Soviet Russia: The Politics of Intervention. Indiana University Press. Introduction.

Dieter Haller, Cris Shore (eds.) Corruption: Anthropological Perspectives, Pluto Press, 2005.

Owen, J., Hawes, R., Hecker, C. (2010). Grey practices in the Russian business environment. London: Control Risks, Retrieved August 30, 2012, from

Gold, G. D., & Naufal, G. S. (2012). Wasta: The Other Invisible HandA Case Study of University Students in the Gulf. Journal of Arabian Studies, 2(1), 59-73.

Fitzpatrick S. (2000) ‘Contacts and Connections’ in Everyday Stalinism: Ordinary Lives in Extraordinary Times: Soviet Russia in the 1930s, Oxford University Press, pp. 62-66 and see Index on Patronage and Protectionism.

Hernando de Soto (1982) The Other Path.

Leslie, I. 2013. ‘Ambivalence Is Awesome: Or is it awful?’ Slate Magazine, posted Thursday, June 13, at

Class 9: How to identify informal patterns? - Comparing and clustering practices across the globe

This class tackles the question to what extent different informal arrangements, structures and practices can have universal meanings, functions, forms and effects observable in all societies. We explore how informal arrangements help or hinder the workings of economies, societies, businesses. Informality exists in all societies. In most instances, it is taken for granted. Insiders come to regard them as a way of life, while outsiders remain unaware of them or believe that thay could not possibly comprehend how things “really work.” Our goal will be to demystify the informal on the one hand, but to question its banality, on the other. We attempt to classify the existing range of informal patterns, to discern supportive and subversive aspects of informality where possible, and assess whether some informal configurations are more conducive (or less damaging) to good governance, economic development and social justice. Government planning and the effective policy implementation has often been impeded by the unthinking transfer of western categories to the economic and social structures in other cultures, so the care in comparative analysis should be exercised. Try to identify patterns in the Global Encyclopaedia of Informality: circle, triangle, diad.

Reading list for Class 9

Ardichvili, A.,Jondle,D., Kowske,B., Cornachione,E., Li,J., Thakadipuram,T.(2012) “Ethical Cultures in Large Business Organizations in Brazil, Russia, India, and China,” Journal of Business Ethics, 105(4), 415-428.

Baez-Camargo, C. & Ledeneva, A. (2017). Where Does Informality Stop and Corruption Begin? Informal Governance and the Public/Private Crossover in Mexico, Russia and Tanzania. The Slavonic and East European Review, 95(1), 49-75.

Hutchings, Kate and David Weir, “Guanxi and Wasta: A Comparison,” Thunderbird International Business Review , Vol. 48 No.1, January-February 2006, pp. 141-56.

Ledeneva, A. (2008) ‘Blat and Guanxi: Informal Practices in Russia and China,’ Comparative Studies in Society and History, 50(1), 118-44.

Lomnitz, L. A., & Sheinbaum, D. (2004). Trust, social networks and the informal economy: a comparative analysis. Review of Sociology, 10(1), 5-26.

Meyer, E. (2014). The culture map: Breaking through the invisible boundaries of global business. PublicAffairs.

Puffer, S. M., McCarthy, D. J., & Boisot, M. (2010). Entrepreneurship in Russia and China: The impact of formal institutional voids. Entrepreneurship theory and practice, 34(3), 441-467.

Zhan, J. V. (2012). Filling the gap of formal institutions: the effects of Guanxi network on corruption in reform-era China. Crime, law and social change, 58(2), 93-109.

Mansfeldová, Zdenka; Pleines, Heiko (eds) (2011) Informal relations from democratic representation to corruption: Case Studies from Central and Eastern Europe (Changing Europe), Stuttgart: Ibidem.

Class 10: Present your examination essay (presentation of research plan and materials with paper handouts)/ Feedback/ Conclusion/UCL Culture Festival poster (optional)

Bring a printed copy of your examination essay plan for everyone in the class for feedback.