The Social Contestation of High Living Costs in Guadeloupe and Mauritania
Between 2005 and 2010, Mauritania and Guadeloupe faced massive social mobilizations against the high cost of living. The widespread use of illegal practices was blamed for the unjust pricing of some of the most important consumer goods. While state responses to illegality had limited success, the interfaces between legality and illegality in markets appeared to shape social and political relations. In Guadeloupe, a wave of audits responded to the social demands for transparency and the unveiling of illegal practices. But illegalities remained largely unsanctioned, enabling the continued coexistence of legality and illegality in price formation. In Mauritania, public interventions were necessary to contain the social and political consequences of price hikes. But circumvention of the rules was so common in the public administration that fraudulent practices characterized the implementation of such social programs too. Illegal market transactions became one of the means by which the government organized redistribution.
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