Informality and Policy Making: Evidence from Post-Socialist Spaces

Monday, July 14, 2014: 5:30 PM
Room: 512
Oral Presentation
Abel POLESE , Political Science and Governance, Tallinn University, Tallinn, Estonia
Oleksandra SELIVERSTOVA , Tallinn University, Estonia
Jeremy MORRIS , University of Birmingham, United Kingdom
Informed by participant observation in public places, informal interviews and a large scale survey this paper explores the way informal practices may impact policy making in the post-socialist region with case studies drawn from Lithuania, Poland, Russia, Ukraine and Uzbekistan. It offers a new perspective on what some have defined as a "culture of corruption" to introduce the concept of "(non-)state socialism", defined as a system for redistribution of welfare based on human interaction, and agency, replacing state agency where and when this latter is ineffective or absent. (Non) state socialism refers to the fact that informal practices of redistribution are so complex, and comprehensive, that they may be seen as an alternative, and more equitable, system functioning parallely to state-driven welfare distribution. When a substantial number of actors engages systematically with informal economic practices, the alternative system generated may be seen as persistent and unofficially reshaping national policies, especially when not tailored for a given context, place, or category of citizens.

By doing this, this paper proposes a differentiation of corrupt practices: those harming the state (like fiscal fraud or bribing) and those harming the fellow citizen directly (trafficking, narco-traffic). Although both "illegal" the first one might allow redistribution of welfare in areas where the state is absent or ineffective. Survival of such practices lies in lack of strict control by the state, that lets the citizens relatively free to act. When this happen, even if the state is not effective, the society re-regulate itself and there is no need to put forward political or economic claims. However, when an ineffective state tries to control too much, the main effect could be to boost deprivation without proposing any viable alternative.