American Sociological Association

Risky Investments: How Local and Foreign Investors Finesse Corruption-Rife Emerging Markets

How do investors enter and navigate markets where there is a general lack of access to information and where the law is open to interpretation? Drawing on interview data with 100 research subjects in Vietnam’s real estate market, this article makes contributions to the literatures of economic sociology and development. First, looking at a diverse set of local, regional, and global investors, I theorize how market actors pursue different strategies to manage risky investments based on their proximity to state officials. Investors’ proximity depends on four processes: legal/regulatory, social ties, cultural matching, and stage of investment. Second, I highlight how multiple state–market relations can coexist within the same state. Investors’ varying levels of proximity to government officials shape their relationship with the state as one of patronage (predatory), mutual destruction (mutual hostage), or transparency (developmental). Heterogeneous state–market relations help account for the persistence of foreign direct investment in markets that display both a great deal of corruption and a great deal of legality and transparency.


Kimberly Kay Hoang





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