Tracing informal and illicit flows after socialism:A microcommodity supply chain analysis in the Slovak Republic

Abel Polese, David Karjanen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


The purpose of this paper is to explore the linkages between formal/informal and licit/illicit flows of goods in the postsocialist economy in order to better understand and provide an analysis of both sides of these economic practices. Research over 20 months in Slovakia, between 2000 and 2007, included surveys of retailers of goods, households and firms who buy and sell contraband, and ethnographic research with truckers, consumers, and sellers of contraband. This study also included a novel research method – a microeconomic commodity supply chain analysis, providing a new means to understand the circulation of illicit goods. This paper has important findings for the movement of illicit goods in Slovakia and more broadly. Tracing the movement of two goods: cigarettes and clothing, demonstrates that the current theories of informal and illicit flows are inadequate theoretically or to develop proper policies. Both the formal and informal, as well as licit and illicit, flows and production of goods are interwoven through economic practice. Little research exists specifically tracking the movement of illicit goods and analyzing their economic role in social and economic practices regarding informal economic activity. The results of this study show how the production, distribution, and consumption of illicit goods are integral to the economic transformation of the postsocialist economy from the household and firm level, and in such practices encourage marketization and capitalist development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)648-663
Number of pages16
JournalInternational Journal of Sociology and Social Policy
Issue number11-12
StatePublished - Oct 25 2011


  • Cigarettes
  • Clothing
  • Commodity supply chain
  • Economic conditions
  • Economic strategies
  • Informal economy
  • Slovakia


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