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Preface

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  21 November 2020

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Summary

Observers have rightly pointed out that the ‘economy’ remains largely unproblematized as compared to notions such as state, nation, culture, class, and gender. Paradoxically, while social scientists have successfully deconstructed the state and the political, the concept of the ‘market’ remains unabated, despite Polanyi's formidable arguments about the historicity of the market some decades ago. At best, economic exchanges and capitalist orders not conforming to the prescriptions of an autonomous, frictionless, self-regulated market are relegated to the margin or shadow. Believed to be haphazard, disruptive, and illicit, shadow exchanges are largely left to the attention of criminologists.

We join the efforts of critical scholars who problematize and historicize the market and the economy. But unlike most of our predecessors who developed alternative theoretical perspectives to explicate the nature of economics, we deconstruct the problem in empirical terms by documenting concrete details of the operational mechanisms, governance structures, terms of exchange, and meanings of transaction of activities associated with intra- and trans-national flows of resources within and across territorial borders. Since these flows are not based on the familiar firm-driven logic of contractual exchanges, it requires a kind of ‘deep’ inquiry: delving beneath the surface of rules, policies, and institutional setups into the obscured realm of shadow activities and exposing the alternative logics of economic governance.

We label these activities as ‘shadow’ exchanges, but only out of expedient considerations. They are seen as shadowy simply because they do not have a place in current economics textbooks and the Smithian conception of the market. In reality, many shadow activities have long found their place under the sun. They do not exist in complete separation from the conventional market economy. Rather, they operate side by side, clash and mesh, and at times compete with as well as supplement the dominant market order. More importantly, despite being theoretically marginalized, such activities constitute a substantial proportion of national and global economies.

Revealing the particularistic logics of shadow economies across different regional and territorial spaces challenges the hegemonic discourse that ignores contingent forms of economic interactions besides free market transactions from our conceptual language. After all, the market is an institution embedded in particular histories as much as the state itself, since neither the market, nor the state has qualities that transcend time and place.

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Publisher: Amsterdam University Press
Print publication year: 2020

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  • Preface
  • Edited by Tak-Wing Ngo, Eva P. W. Hung
  • Book: Shadow Exchanges along the New Silk Roads
  • Online publication: 21 November 2020
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9789048541348.001
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  • Preface
  • Edited by Tak-Wing Ngo, Eva P. W. Hung
  • Book: Shadow Exchanges along the New Silk Roads
  • Online publication: 21 November 2020
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9789048541348.001
Available formats
×

Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

  • Preface
  • Edited by Tak-Wing Ngo, Eva P. W. Hung
  • Book: Shadow Exchanges along the New Silk Roads
  • Online publication: 21 November 2020
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9789048541348.001
Available formats
×