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Cost of Living: Expert Concepts and Everyday Efforts

by Federico Neiburg, Isabelle Guérin, Susana Narotzky

GD 14.1

This thematic section is the result of a partnership between Global Dialogue and International Sociology. In it, we aim to make available to a wider audience some of the main results of a special issue that has just been published in International Sociology. In this article, we introduce the concept of cost of living, which is simultaneously a category fabricated and utilized in the universe of specialists and a vernacular concept that traverses people’s daily lives ...

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14.1
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Latest Issue. GD 14.1, April 2024

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Misalignments: House Money and Inflationary Experiences

GD 14.1

In this article we address how residents of a favela area known as the “Complexo da Maré” (Maré Complex), in the city of Rio de Janeiro, experienced price increases, particularly in food and energy, during 2021 and 2022, still in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. We use the concept of alignment (and its derivatives, such as misalignment and realignment) to analyze the different ways of navigating an increase in the cost of living through accommodating material changes and future perspectives at different scales: from the ideals...

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Coping with Inflation in Contemporary Argentina

GD 14.1

In recent years, and after a long time, inflation has returned as a central issue in the economic and political agenda of different countries. The sources of price increases and the policy instruments available to tackle them have become matters of discussion among experts inside and outside governments. But how do people cope with inflation daily, and what can sociology tell us about it? Many questions arise when considering how rising living costs impact household economies. In what specific ways do agents refer to inflation and incorporate information about price increases into their everyday...

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The Role of Yuca in Sustaining Precarious Populations in Ecuador

GD 14.1

How do precarious populations experiencing unmet needs sustain themselves? How do they nourish themselves not only materially but also in meaningful social terms, and what is the relationship between objective and subjective sustenance? We argue that communities’ relationships to food help shape their experiences of crises. The French term la vie chère simultaneously invokes affective relations, collective valuations, and high prices, indicating the importance of all these dimensions in understanding experiences and responses to rising costs of living. In this sense, we...

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Moral Dilemmas in Food Provisioning

GD 14.1

The specific conceptualization of the costs of everyday life we consider in this article stems from an interpretation of the phrase “cost of living” which addresses: (1) macro indicators of inflation, (2) the difference between food produce price and the consumer price as a cost to farmers that endangers their viability, and (3) how this cost gets expressed in the wages of workers and endangers their livelihood. Finally, we highlight the energy that needs to be invested to ensure social reproduction at the scale of individuals and households – workers and employers in agriculture...

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Tracking the Cost of Living in Madagascar

GD 14.1

Measuring the cost of living is crucial to understanding a country’s economic, social, and political fabric. Yet, it is fraught with complexities and controversies that stem from the diverse interpretations of “cost,” which involve values, technical capabilities, resources, and power dynamics. Despite its limitations, the Consumer Price Index (CPI) is often employed as the main proxy of living costs, thereby both reflecting and shaping economic conditions. The CPI is used as the key indicator of inflation, it plays a pivotal role in measuring poverty rates and purchasing power...

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The Power of Price Subsidies in Morocco

GD 14.1

The Moroccan system of subsidies – which actors refer to as compensation – organises the markets for products that the government designates as “strategic”, principally because of their importance for household purchasing power: butane gas, flour, bread and sugar. Our work offers a historical sociology of this system, which has persisted until today despite the criticisms it has received since its inception and repeated promises to dismantle it. This “compensation” emerged from the pricing policies adopted by the French Colonial Empire in the inflationary...

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Food Security in Times of War: The Case of Russia

GD 14.1

Food security has been a cornerstone of the campaign to eradicate hunger and extreme poverty, which is one of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) identified by major international development organizations. Complex and multi-faceted, the concept of food security was defined by the United Nations (UN) World Food Summit in 1996 as based on four pillars: the availability of food, access to it and opportunity to use it, utilization and stability of the three pillars over time. Despite the growth in agricultural production, this objective is under threat as a result of the successive...

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‘openMovements’: A Platform for Public and Global Sociology

GD 14.1

The climate meltdown has become a visible reality, and in the meantime, during the global summits, governments only demonstrate a lack of capacity and willingness to tackle this urgent issue. Democracy is under serious threat in various regions of the world. Technocrats conduct major trade negotiations, and citizens have little impact on these decisions. Authoritarianism has gained impetus, as have nationalist and far-right movements. Hate speech and intolerance are on the rise, leading to racist or hate crimes and increasing political polarisation. We have entered a more complex scenario of...

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How do we Research and Understand Popular Struggles?

GD 14.1

The last quarter millennium of world history is also one of social movements: the struggles against empire that produced a world of post-colonial nation states, the battles for democracy now under severe attack in many places, women’s and LGBTQ+ movements that have fundamentally challenged patriarchy, migrant and anti-racist activism, dis/ability and mental health struggles, anti-war movements, class-based struggles of many kinds – including democratising access to education and hence research – and so on. There are good reasons why social movement research flourishes...

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