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Socially embedded workers at the nexus of diverse work in Russia: An ethnography of blue‐collar informalization

Jeremy Morris (CREES, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK)

International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy

ISSN: 0144-333X

Article publication date: 25 October 2011




The purpose of this paper is to explore an important nexus of formal/informal economic activity in Russia: “normative” workers (in waged formal employment) by virtue of a strongly embedded work‐related social identity and characterized by a significant number of weak social ties, move with little “effort” between formal and informal work.


The paper presents extensive ethnographic data from the Russian provinces on workers and diverse economic practices. It utilizes participant observation and semi‐structured interviews from periods of fieldwork over the course of a year (2009‐2010).


This study traces the theoretical debates on the informal economy from 1989 to 2008 and argues for a substantivist position on household reproduction that focuses on the interdependence of social networks, employment, class‐identity and (informal) work. The findings demonstrate significant performative and spatial aspects of embedded worker identity, including the workspace itself as a contested domain, that facilitate movement between formal‐informal work.


The originality of the paper resides in its ethnographic approach to informal economies under post‐socialism and the substantivist evaluation of diverse economic practices in Russia as supported by formal work‐based shared identities.



Morris, J. (2011), "Socially embedded workers at the nexus of diverse work in Russia: An ethnography of blue‐collar informalization", International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, Vol. 31 No. 11/12, pp. 619-631.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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