City Research Online

Formality as exception

Pratt, A.C. ORCID: 0000-0003-2215-9648 (2019). Formality as exception. Urban Studies, 56(3), pp. 612-615. doi: 10.1177/0042098018810600


In this commentary piece, we are reminded that naming (in-formality) is an inherently political act. Informality is discussed through a number of dimensions: conceptually in relation to the term ‘formal’; considering its (ordinary) presence in the city; discussing the recognition and devaluation of the informal economy; and pointing to the contribution it makes to the global economy. Analytically, it is argued that informality requires a balancing concept of the formal; politically, informality is ‘the Other’, bound into a teleological relationship with the formal, but unable to ever achieve it. As such, informality is tied to and legitimates the ‘formal’. By reviewing the ontological critique and epistemological diversions deployed by some of the articles of this special issue, the commentary shows that the informal economy is not a ‘residual’ category but one that encompasses the majority of the human experience (urban and non-urban). In this sense, it puts forward the suggestion of viewing formality as exception and informality as the norm, for it is difficult to imagine a totally formal activity with no informality. Informality, then, should be interpreted as a hybrid of what is termed formal and informal. In all its varieties, it is shown that informality constitutes the everyday of the city. Yet, this commentary also calls to resist generalisations so as to be able to ‘see’ particular timed and placed informalities that exist in relation to a wider (local) social, political and economic setting, as well as a global one.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: ©2018, the authors.
Publisher Keywords: formal as exception, hybrid, informal economy, varieties of informality
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
Departments: School of Communication & Creativity > Media, Culture & Creative Industries > Culture & the Creative Industries
SWORD Depositor:
[thumbnail of Pratt - 2018 - Formality as exception.pdf]
Text - Accepted Version
Download (91kB) | Preview


Add to AnyAdd to TwitterAdd to FacebookAdd to LinkedinAdd to PinterestAdd to Email


Downloads per month over past year

View more statistics

Actions (login required)

Admin Login Admin Login