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Informal economy, informal state: the case of Uzbekistan

Johan Rasanayagam (Department of Anthropology, School of Social Science, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, UK)

International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy

ISSN: 0144-333X

Article publication date: 25 October 2011




In the Soviet Union, the official command structure for economic production and distribution gave rise to, and depended upon, what has been described as a “shadow” economy. In the post‐socialist context, the unregulated, often extra‐legal activities of production and exchange, encompassing the survival strategies of the poor, the emergence of post‐socialist “Mafias”, and much entrepreneurial activity, has been described using the concept of the “informal economy”.


The paper is based on long‐term participatory research over a period of three years.


The paper argues that what we might think of as informal economic activity in Uzbekistan cannot be understood in relation to a formal economy, but is rather an expression of a more general informalisation of lifeworlds following the end of the Soviet Union. Unlike the situation in the Soviet Union, the informal does not emerge from and exist in relation to formal political and economic structures. The state itself is experienced in personalised terms, as a “Mafia”, and the informal is all that there is.


This article provides an original perspective on the informal economy and informalised lifeworlds in Uzbekistan.



Rasanayagam, J. (2011), "Informal economy, informal state: the case of Uzbekistan", International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, Vol. 31 No. 11/12, pp. 681-696.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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