June 14, 2016
Informality in the global south thought to matter because it is a threat, or a stage on the road, to (or embedded in) formality; or because it is a permanent condition acceptable on its own terms and has the potential to keep formal bureaucratic organizations running and in touch with citizens. These understandings of informality also share an assertion: that the quality of informality is different – almost genetically so – from formality. The purpose of my remarks here is to point this discussion in another direction. I argue that the difference between informality and formality is only conceptual. The supposition that there exists in fact an informal-formal dichotomy, dualism or dialectic, and its use as an analytical lens, produces apparent features which it cannot easily account for. I illustrate these features and then go on to sketch out another approach and its implications.