Barter and the Informal Economy

Food systems entail various modes of circulation and provisioning beyond conventional market exchange, and understanding them requires attention to two separate, occasionally interrelated, but frequently confused phenomena: barter and the informal economy. Barter is a common but nontechnical term to describe certain kinds of material exchange that involve the direct trade of goods or services between parties without the use of money. It possesses characteristics that both connect and differentiate it from either reciprocity or market exchange, such as the fact that it entails direct engagement between free and equal parties, who arrange the transaction without the interference of an outside structure or authority. The particularities of barter as a form of exchange resonate with the so-called informal economy, another common but nontechnical term that ...

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