Alena V. Ledeneva is Professor of Politics and Society at the University College London (UCL), UK. She authored several books including Can Russia Modernise? Sistema, Power Networks and Informal Governance (CUP 2013), How Russia Really Works (Cornell University Press 2006), and Russia’s Economy of Favours (CUP 1998) and many articles. Her expertise is on informal networks, governance practices and corruption.
My project is aimed at exploring the boundaries between informality and corruption.
Considering the importance of informal practices both in post-communist economies and across the globe, research into this field has been slow to develop. Some of the reasons for this are pragmatic: in studying sensitive issues associated with informal institutions, networks and practices, researchers encounter methodological challenges, pressures to work cross discipline, and unwelcoming attitudes from respondents. Yet there are also conceptual puzzles in integrating the informal dimension into disciplinary research and in breaching moral resistance to unearth inconvenient facts about the functionality of grey areas in politics, economy and society. Through its comparative and ethnographic investigations, this project will shed light onto the existence of multiple moralities, which account for the resilience of informal practices, and explore their legitimacy and institutional arrangements as well as the cultural and historical contexts that produce and reproduce the porous boundaries between informal and corrupt practices.