Formless: A Day at Lima’s Office of Formalization: Supplemental Material

This post builds on the research article “Formless: A Day at Lima’s Office of Formalization,” which was published in the May 2013 issue of the Society’s peer-reviewed journal, Cultural Anthropology.

Editor's Footnotes

Cultural anthropology has published other articles on cities and urbanism, including "Flexible Citizenship in Dubai: Neoliberal Subjectivity in the Emerging 'City-Corporation'" by Ahmed Kanna and "Phantasms in a "Starry" Place: Space and Identification in a Central New Delhi Market" by Paolo Favero

Cultural Anthropology has also published articles on political economy, including "The Face of Money: Currency, Crisis, and Remediation in Post-Suharto Indonesia" by Karen Strassler and "Consuming Class: Multilevel Marketers in Neoliberal Mexico" by Peter S. Cahn.

Related Readings

Hart, Keith. "Informal Economy." In The New Palgrave: A Dictionary of Economics, vol. 2. John Eatwell et al., eds. Pp. 845-846. London: The Macmillan Press Limited. 1973.

Lomnitz, Larissa. "Informal Exchange Networks in Formal Systems: A Theoretical Model." American Anthropologist 90(1988):42-54.

Mehlman, Jeffrey. Revolution and Repetition: Marx/Hugo/Balzac. Berkeley: University ofCalifornia Press. 1997.

Miller, Daniel. "Consumption." In Handbook of Material Culture. Los Angeles: SAGE. 2006.

Questions for Classroom Discussion

1) A classic trope in political economy is to view society as an opposition between a state and a public sphere. How does Gandolfo's description of both Peru's legal regime and informal economy challenge that division? To what extent can either the state or civil society be considered a unified whole?

2) A common reason given for "formalizing" certain economies is to make them "visible" to the state, in terms of regulation and tax among other subjects. It is to give them a form, in other words. Yet much of this formalization is also done in the name of deregulation, decentralization and other forms of neoliberalism. Is this a contradiction in terms? What is the goal of the state in this story?

3) A question Gandolfo asks is that, in lowering and simplifying the state's regulation regime, does the state manage to "informalize" its own bureaucratic structures? Building from this, to what extent does it seem that the state's formal structures and the informality of the market are codependent on each other for their existence?