Since the 1970s, the concept of “economic informality” has served as focal point for a comprehensive scholarly thinking and the development of policy initiatives enhanced by international organisations. Yet, informality displays a puzzling resilience. The problematique of this book concerns the lenses through which informality has been constituted, studied and acted upon as an empirical phenomenon. By developing a critical understanding of informality as object of study, the book uncovers the historical, scholarly and practitioner contexts in which contemporary conceptualisations of informality are constituted.
The author argues that three dominant and conventional approaches to informality systematically fail to account for how the reasons behind people's participation in informal economic activities are constituted by an internal and hierarchically structured social order. To transcend the identified shortcomings of the established approaches, the book rethinks informality through a comprehensive power analysis and highlights the importance of hierarchy, covert violence and domination. A central assumption of this rethinking is that informality constitutes a social phenomenon that emerges and is expressed through social practices, which over time and across space have become institutionalised to the point that informality is considered commonsensical and unchangeable. By putting the reconceptualisation to use through the thinking of Pierre Bourdieu, the book performs an empirical analysis of the nexus between resilience, symbolic violence and informal economic practices in Kosovo from the late 1980s until 2011. Based on primary research material, the analysis offers a unique insight into informal dynamics and illuminates the workings of an intrinsic, circular, malleable and ambiguous system of domination that would otherwise remain hidden.
By engaging the empirical, theoretical and meta-theoretical level at the same time, the book explores the twofold constitution of informality as a social phenomenon and brings to light a new understanding of the resilience of the informal. As such, the reconceptualisation forms a critical intervention into scholarly and practitioner discussions about informality. By revealing mechanisms of domination, the book offers an alternative and fruitful account of the socio-historical weave within which practices of informality in Kosovo crystallise.