Informal economy, informal state: the case of Uzbekistan

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Purpose – 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”.

Design/methodology/approach – The paper is based on long-term participatory research over a period of three years.

Findings – 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.

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

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)681-696
Number of pages16
JournalInternational Journal of Sociology and Social Policy
Issue number11/12
Publication statusPublished - 2011


  • Central Asia
  • corruption
  • economic conditions
  • informal economy
  • national economy
  • Soviet Union
  • state
  • Uzbekistan


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