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Marketization and the public-private divide: Contestations between the state and the petty traders over the access to public space in Tbilisi

Lela Rekhviashvili (Doctoral School of Political Science, Central European University, Budapest, Hungary)

International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy

ISSN: 0144-333X

Article publication date: 7 July 2015

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Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to critically examine the reasons behind a decade long contestations between the Georgian government and the petty traders over the access to the public space for commercial use.

Design/methodology/approach

The paper relies on the repeated ethnographic fieldwork conducted in Tbilisi in 2012 and 2013. The ethnographic interviews with legally operating traders and illegal street vendors are supplemented by the in-depth interviews with the representatives of the city government and secondary literature on Georgia’s post-revolutionary transformation.

Findings

Bridging the critical literature on the politics of the public space with Polanyi’s theory on commodification of fictitious commodities as a precondition of establishment of a market economy, the author argues that for the Georgian government control of the public space was necessary to pursue neoliberal marketisation policies. These policies required removal of the petty traders from public spaces because the state needed to restrict access to public space and limit its commercial usage to delineate public and private property and allow commodification of the urban land and property. As the commodification intensified and the rent prices started growing and fluctuating, the access to the public space became even more valuable for the petty traders. Therefore, the traders developed subversive tactics undermining the division between public and private space and property.

Originality/value

The paper demonstrates the importance of enforcing the public-private divide in the process of establishing a market economy in transitional settings. Moreover, it illustrates little discussed social costs of establishing such a divide.

Keywords

Citation

Rekhviashvili, L. (2015), "Marketization and the public-private divide: Contestations between the state and the petty traders over the access to public space in Tbilisi", International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, Vol. 35 No. 7/8, pp. 478-496. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJSSP-10-2014-0091

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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