UCL Press


The Global Encyclopaedia of Informality, Volume 1

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Edited by Alena Ledeneva | January 2018

Format: 234x156mm 
Open Access PDF
ISBN: 978‑1‑911307‑90‑7
ISBN: 978‑1‑911307‑88‑4
ISBN: 978‑1‑911307‑89‑1
ISBN: 978‑1‑911307‑87‑7
Pages: 452

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About the book

Alena Ledeneva invites you on a voyage of discovery, to explore society’s open secrets, unwritten rules and know-how practices. Broadly defined as ‘ways of getting things done’, these invisible yet powerful informal practices tend to escape articulation in official discourse. They include emotion-driven exchanges of gifts or favours and tributes for services, interest-driven know-how (from informal welfare to informal employment and entrepreneurship), identity-driven practices of solidarity, and power-driven forms of co-optation and control. The paradox, or not, of the invisibility of these informal practices is their ubiquity. Expertly practised by insiders but often hidden from outsiders, informal practices are, as this book shows, deeply rooted all over the world, yet underestimated in policy. Entries from the five continents presented in this volume are samples of the truly global and ever-growing collection, made possible by a remarkable collaboration of over 200 scholars across disciplines and area studies.

By mapping the grey zones, blurred boundaries, types of ambivalence and contexts of complexity, this book creates the first Global Map of Informality. The accompanying database is searchable by region, keyword or type of practice, so do explore what works, how, where and why!

Volume II is available here

About the author

Alena Ledeneva is Professor of Politics and Society at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies of UCL. She is an internationally renowned expert on informal governance in Russia. Her research interests centre on corruption, informal economies, economic crime, informal practices in corporate governance, and the role of networks and patron-client relationships in Russia and around the globe. Her books, including How Russia Really Works: Informal Practices in the 1990s (2006) and Can Russia Modernize? Sistema, Power Networks and Informal Governance (2013) have become must-read sources in Russian studies and social sciences.

PART I Redistribution
Part II: Solidarity

Praise for the Encyclopaedia of Informality

Praise for The Global Encyclopaedia of Informality

The Global Encyclopaedia of Informality represents the beginning of a new era in informality studies. With its wealth of information, diversity, scope, theoretical innovation and artistic skill, this collection touches on all the aspects of social and cultural complexity that need to be integrated into policy thinking.’ 
Predrag Cvetičanin, Centre for Empirical Cultural Studies of South-East Europe, Belgrade, Serbia

‘This is a monumental achievement – an indispensable reference for anyone in the social sciences interested in informality.’
Martin Holbraad, Professor of Social Anthropology, UCL, and editor-in-chief of Social Analysis

‘This impressive work helps us understand our complex times by showing how power develops through informal practices, mobilizing emotional, cognitive and relational mechanisms in strategies of survival, but also of camouflage and governance.’ 
Donatella della Porta, Director of Centre of Social Movements Studies, Scuola normale superiore, Firenze, Italy

‘An impressive, informative, and intriguing collection. With evident passion and patience, the team of 250 researchers insightfully portrays the multiplicity of informal and often invisible expressions of human interdependence.’ 
Subi Rangan, Professor of Strategy and Management, INSEAD, Fontainebleau, France

‘This compendium of terms used in different cultures to express aspects of informal economy provides a unique supplement to studies of a major (yet understated by academic economics) social issue. It will be of key significance for in-depth teaching of sociology, economics and history.’ 
Teodor Shanin, OBE Professor and President of the Moscow School of Social and Economic Sciences

 ‘Modern states have sought to curb, control and subdue informality. The entries in the Global Encyclopaedia demonstrate the endurance of informality over such efforts. More recently, the rise and political success of anti-establishment movements in so many parts of the world is a wide-ranging challenge and delegitimisation of national and transnational formal institutions of governance. Understanding the perceived shortcomings of formal institutions and the appeal of anti-establishment movements must at least in part be informed by a study of informality and its networks. This Encyclopaedia is essential reading if we wish to understand and engage with these challenges of our age.’
Fredrik Galtung, Chairman, Integrity Action