Gift and Reciprocity in the Aftermath of the 2003 Heatwave: Using Social Theory to Understand Public Confusion in Response to Solidarity Day in France

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterAcademic


The August 2003 heatwave resulted in an additional 15, 000 deaths in France, mostly among the very old. In the wake of the disaster, an annual Solidarity Day (Journée de Solidarité) was introduced. By cancelling a public holiday, the French government sought to raise 2 billion euros to finance healthcare for older people and people who live with disabilities. The first such day in May 2005 led to confusion, with opposition from unions, demonstrations by public sector employees, and uncertainty in the general workforce. Using Marcel Mauss’ theory of gift and reciprocity, this chapter explores and tries to understand this confusion. It examines the moral and political obligations placed upon workers, older people, and the Republic through the engineering, or coercing, of collective solidarity. The chapter explores a fascinating contemporary case that tests the relevance and limits of Mauss’ gift cycle in the context of policy studies.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationInterdisciplinarity in the Scholarly Life Cycle
Subtitle of host publicationLearning by Example in Humanities and Social Science Research
EditorsKarin Bijsterveld, Aagje Swinnen
ISBN (Print)9783031111105
Publication statusPublished - 2023

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