Working Paper 24

Spheres of Exchange in the Bulgarian Transition

Sophie Chevalier

Abteilung ‚Resilienz und Transformation in Eurasien’

Jahr der Veröffentlichung


Working Paper 24

In her research on domestic economy and exchange systems linking Bulgaria's rural areas to its major cities, Sophie Chevalier was soon confronted with the necessity of describing and analysing a complex process which takes place at various levels. Based on her empirical material, she approaches this task by building up four conceptual "spheres" of exchange: kinship, state, market and international (currently "Europe"). Each of these spheres is characterised by specific types of social relations and requires different kinds of social investment by individuals. The study also opens up a way of looking at how people gain access to property. First, the author presents the transformation of economic life through a brief account of her local fieldwork. Then she describes and analyses how people organise their economic strategies, both individual and collective. These may be mapped with reference to the four different spheres. The first three are internal to Bulgarian society in the long run, while the last involves recent historical changes in external relations. She compares all four spheres, paying particular attention to the growing importance of money. The spheres of exchange are based on different relational values, built up through individual experience and reflecting important historical changes in institutions. The paper thus explores the relative significance for Bulgarians today of personal identity; national citizenship; private contracts; and transnational community. In conclusion, Sophie Chevalier offers some remarks concerning the relevance of the framework developed here for the study of property relations.

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