Economic Action and Social Structure: ‘Cambisme’ in Kinshasa

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Abstract

In the recent literature on institutions and social capital, there has been a renewed emphasis on the importance of social structure in explaining the performance of economic markets. Approaches to how this ‘social structure’ is conceived differ widely, however. This article examines the social structure and partitioning of the market in foreign currency in Kinshasa, based on fieldwork in the mid–1990s, and finds remarkable similarities with Geertz’s seminal paper on the functioning of peasant markets and his description of the bazaar economy in Sefrou. The case study is also instructive as it highlights the day–to–day reality of hyperinflation and monetary chaos.

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