When I was a child, one day my mother took me to visit an unregular communal festival. As a child, I just felt happy because my mother promised would give me ice cream. When we arrive, I quite wondered why so many adult people gather in that place and they seem passionate to get some coupons. For me, it is a new experience since the only regular festival in my town is the traditional celebration of Independence Day. As far as I remembered that the festival was held by the local government to distribute basic goods at discounted prices. Later, I have informed that the name of that festival is ‘bazaar rakyat’ (a familiar idiom in Javanese-Indonesian people). There, people were allowed to exchange a certain amount of basic needs with coupons they possessed. Therefore, the bazaar is nothing other than a cheap market.
My understanding of bazaar was elaborated when I read one of Geertz’s articles. He describes bazaar as a form of traditional market with specific features. Not like the modern market that promotes effective and efficient production, idealizing the free flow of goods and price as the sole constituting power, bazaar is a market where household (small scale business) products meet their local consumers. They sell products without a target and frequently with fluid prices. They just vending their product to whoever came to bazaar.
Geertz insisted that in this market people who hold more price information—accumulate through regular visiting—would take advantage because this information enables him/his to negotiate. Moreover, when people maintain social connections within this market they would be trusted.
That explanation encourages me to think more clearly about the transformation of economic practices in underdeveloped and developing countries. This drives me to seek another bazaar practice from different sources. In Iran, Asef Bayat describes, the economic activity before Revolution was mostly conducted in bazaar markets. At the time, Iran was underdeveloped because economic industrialization was still limited and how Iranian people fulfilled their basic needs generally in traditional fashions. Interestingly, the social consequence of the former is urbanization cannot improve the standard of living indeed. Those who migrate to the cities tend to be absorbed in the informal sector. And this condition made their traditional economic practices keep alive.
Bayat state that the vitality of the bazaar market in the main street at the occasional times is the survival mechanism shown by poor people. Street dealers sometimes confront the police because what they do is illegal. But they have established a strategy to manage collective resistance or retreat from regulation. It can be called practical adaptation where the traditional market takes place in the regulated city. In the other words, bazaar is the main element of the informal economy that the state official cannot control and is incapable to manage.
In the age of globalized world, we tend to think that the neo-liberal free market would make state control wane. More precisely the logic of market would be dominant in society. In this condition, we must ask an interesting question: what are the effects of globalization on the informal economy where bazaar markets survive?
I would like to elaborate on that question with a proposition that bazaar markets would be enlarger when the social process led by market logic does not provide schemes for helping the bottom cluster of society. This is obvious when I observe my country, Indonesia. According to the central statistics bureau, 98 per cent of enterprise in Indonesia is small-middle enterprise (SME). It is mean that most SMEs operate autonomously and have never published or reported their financial account. Hence the portion of tax revenue with GDP never reaches two digits. Moreover, the activities of the informal economy sometimes being vitalized when the pressure of market competition triggered the lower middle class to build their communal solidarity.
For instance, in Yogyakarta—my current living place—there is a lot of bazaar markets where petty dealers install temporal booth to display product they want to sell. That is Sunday Morning Market, Sekaten Night-Market, Traditional Culinary Festival, Kampoeng Ramadhan Jogokaryan and Kauman Evening-Market. Some of these bazaars arewell organized. But in the last decade, Yogyakarta seems experienced intensive development because the public authority plane to make this heritage city become one of the leading tourist destinations in Indonesia or South East Asia.
What I want to point out is that this tourism model of development rests not only on the capitalist competition to take out estate assets but also made the middle-lower class vulnerable. For them, the only option to survive is to be active in the informal economy. Therefore, with the availability of inclusive economic channels—that is bazaar markets—they relatively safe. It is the persistence of bazaar market in the globalized world. Bazaar market still exists despite in the everyday life we are dominated by global products. Finally, this distribution mechanism can be treated as a clear sign of the resistance of traditional ethos against neo-liberalism.