Madagascar's long-term trajectory is unique: not only has GDP per capita been trending downward since 1960 (the puzzle), but every time the country has set out on the path of growth, it has been stopped in its tracks by a socio-political crisis that has shattered the hopes it raised (the paradox). No satisfactory explanation of this failure has been provided so far. This book elaborates a model of intelligibility of Madagascar's downfall, based on an integrated political economy approach as well as mobilizing the most recent development theories. Combining a review of historical literature with original and sometimes unique statistical surveys, it proposes a general interpretative framework for the workings of Malagasy society. Richly documented and accessible, Puzzle and Paradox allows readers to understand Madagascar's sociopolitical history while more broadly offering an opportunity to grasp the different dimensions of development in the Global South.