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Social capital or analytical liability?: social networks and African informal economies

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The rise of the 'social capitalist' paradigm has turned social networks into a concept that conceals more than it reveals. In this article I argue that the essentialism and cultural determinism of 'social capitalist' perspectives have seriously distorted the contemporary understanding of African informal economies. Attention is directed to more institutionally sensitive network perspectives that focus on how the economic performance of networks is shaped by their specific institutional content as well as by the nature of their linkages with the wider society and the state. Drawing on empirical studies from across Africa, the analysis highlights the role of ethnicity, religion, class, gender and the state in generating both positive and negative trends in the restructuring of African informal economies. Processes of continuity and change within networks are captured through the analysis of how the institutional legacies of the past interact with the social realignments, economic liberalization and globalizing dynamics of contemporary Africa.

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en

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http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/27375/

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