Abstract

How do the ‘sharing economies’ relate to the long history of informal economic practices as understood in the social sciences? This article examines conceptions of the sharing economy in terms of its relation to scholarship on informality. By using two case studies of informal economic practices that originated in socialist-era societies and continue to the present day in modified forms, we critique the notion that sharing economies are significantly novel in form or logic, other than technologically. We draw attention to the variety of informal economy practices to discuss how they may be socially embedded or disembedded. The main focus on global technological leveraging of productivity and connectivity in sharing economy practices would suggest that many aspects are akin to disembedded forms of informality. Scholarship needs to address the ongoing disciplinary parallelism on prefixed ‘economies’—in doing so it would provide a better contextual and theoretical understanding of ‘sharing economies’.

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