Institutional change from within the informal sector in indian rural labour relations

Wendy Olsen, Jamie Morgan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The paper applies a theory of institutional change enriched with mezzorules, fluidity and agency to India's informal sector institutional evolution using two illustrative examples. The concrete examples are rooted in unfree labour and rural casual labouring in India, a country which has a high degree of informality. Section 1 introduces some concepts, and section 2 examines processes of institutional change in the informal sector. In section 3, two illustrations are explored: (1) the norms for girl child bonded labour; (2) the individualisation of women labourers. Section 4 concludes. The fluidity of institutional rules demands a recognition of the supra-economic nature of the context within which economic-institutional change occurs. We propose the analysis of mezzorules in a dialogic research context, i.e. interactions among workers and collective agents - as a helpful and transformative approach for sociologists specialising in the informal economy. © 2010 University of Rome 'La Sapienza'.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)533-553
Number of pages20
JournalInternational Review of Sociology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2010


  • Change
  • India
  • Informal sector
  • Institutions
  • Rural labour


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