DISTINCTIVE DEALINGS: FORMAL AND INFORMAL ENTREPRENEURSHIP IN HALIFAX, NOVA SCOTIA
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Over the past fifty years, the informal economy has emerged as a concept in contradistinction to the formal economy. Literature often assumes that informal economic activities result from precarity and a lack of access to formal employment. Over time, informality has been explained as a residue of traditionalism; as resulting from capitalist exploitation; as resulting from cumbersome regulations and registration processes; or, as resulting from exclusion from the formal economy. These approaches rely on information collected in the Global South and can be difficult to apply to the Global North. Drawing on this literature, this thesis is a qualitative investigation of formal and informal entrepreneurship at two used-goods vending sites in Halifax, Nova Scotia. It also considers how notions of “the local” and “community” affect seller practices, as well as the roles that class distinctions, gentrification and social interaction play at each site. I argue that these sites enable vendors to focus varying goals including engaging in social relations, experimenting with new businesses and to make some pocket money. For a small subset of vendors, selling at these sites is part of a long-term agenda to build enough capital to “platform” to their own brick and mortar stores or to stay in business after the failure of their own stores. I contend that the practices of these sellers do not fit neatly into expectations found in informal economy literature from research in the Global South because most vendors choose informal entrepreneurship despite having access to formal employment and benefits.