“Making plans through people”: the social embeddedness of informal entrepreneurship in urban South Africa

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17 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Informal entrepreneurship is increasingly presented as the solution to youth unemployment in South Africa. This reflects a new development paradigm that views the informal economy as a space of entrepreneurship and economic inclusion. Despite the growing recognition of the informal economy to youth’s livelihoods in South Africa, little attention has been paid to the everyday actions, practices and motivations of informal entrepreneurs. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork in an informal settlement in Johannesburg, this article focuses on an informal car wash venture to show the diversity and multiplicity of young people’s livelihood practices and the social relations that structure them and give them meaning. It highlights the double-edged nature of the social embeddedness of informal livelihoods, showing how these social relationships involve both support and reciprocity and inequality and intimidation. Ultimately, the article challenges the optimism that surrounds informal entrepreneurship as a pathway to social inclusion while also illuminating the social and economic rationalities that make self-employment preferable to low-end jobs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)389-402
Number of pages14
JournalSocial Dynamics
Volume47
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2021
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • entrepreneurship
  • Informal economy
  • social embeddedness
  • South Africa
  • youth

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)

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