"Peasantology" the study of the the "informal economy" http://www.verdant.net/informaleconomy.htm a vast number of the worlds population survives in the informal economy... What is the informal economy? The concept emerged in Africa 25 years ago. Researchers began to notice that there was no economic explanation for how the majority of the population survived. They didn't own land. They didn't seem to have any assets. According to conventional economics they should have died of hunger long ago, but they survived. To understand this, researchers looked at how these people actually lived, rather than at economic models. They found that their way of life was completely the opposite of how a human being in an industrial society survives. They didn't have a job, pension, steady place to work or regular flow of income. Families held a range of occupations from farming and selling in the market to doing odd jobs or handicrafts. Their aim was survival rather than the maximisation of profit. Rather than earn wages, labour was used within family enterprises, or shared out among the village. Researchers discovered the same way of life in Latin America, in South Asia - even in Italy. Intellectually this is interesting, but does it matter practically? Yes. It explains why much economic planning in Eastern Europe does not work. And if you want to help the poorest people in the world you have to understand how they live. Sometimes the news is better than we think. In 1993, the formal economy in Russia was worsening. I remember when an American professor came to visit me in Moscow to ask about Russian hunger. I told him my students were out in the villages and reported hardship, but no signs of hunger. He said he didn't believe me. He had seen the official farm production statistics. He left very displeased. Soon, because of concern in the West, the US and Germany sent trainloads of food parcels. Of course, the Russian Mafia took them and sold them. None got to the countryside. But there was no hunger because most food was being produced in the informal domain There was another crisis in 1998 when the rouble collapsed. How did the peasants do then? Even better. That crisis improved the situation in the villages very considerably. The majority of Russian economists believed what they had been told by the West, that the only way to survive in the post-communist world was to take loans from the world community. That was the policy of the government. So when Western companies left, deciding they could never make any money, Russia feared the worst. Within a year most of the offices in Moscow belonging to Western companies had closed. But as food imports went down, the shops filled with Russian food. Russian farms filled the gap. Often their goods turned out to be much better. So the crisis improved Russian agriculture. Step by step, it has become clear that the crisis was good for Russia, urban as well as rural. The economic conditions have been improving since 1998. This is not accidental. Russia has begun to regain control of its own economy. The main danger to the economics and livelihoods of developing countries, including the former Soviet Union, is dependency. You have to control your frontiers before you can begin to control your own economies. It is a very important lesson - and the complete opposite of what the IMF or George Bush would tell you.