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Social Capital, Microfinance, and the Politics of Development


  • Katherine Rankin


Policy makers increasingly rely on theories of social capital to fashion development interventions that mobilize local social networks in the alleviation of poverty. The potential of such theory lies in its recognition of the social dimensions of economic growth. This recognition has inspired some innovative approaches to development, such as the now-popular microfinance model. In assessing the implications of these recent developments for feminist objectives of social transformation, this paper evaluates prevailing ideas about social capital (rooted in rational choice theory) against the grain of three alternative approaches: Marxian social capital theories ( A la Pierre Bourdieu), neo-Foucauldian governmentality studies, and my feminist ethnographic research on the social embeddedness of economic practice in a merchant community of Nepal. The paper concludes by bringing these critical insights to bear on possibilities for designing microfinance programs - and practicing a kind of development more generally - that could engage women's solidarity to challenge dominant gender ideologies.

Suggested Citation

  • Katherine Rankin, 2002. "Social Capital, Microfinance, and the Politics of Development," Feminist Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 8(1), pages 1-24.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:femeco:v:8:y:2002:i:1:p:1-24 DOI: 10.1080/13545700210125167

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Patricia A. Wilson, 1997. "Building Social Capital: A Learning Agenda for the Twenty-first Century," Urban Studies, Urban Studies Journal Limited, vol. 34(5-6), pages 745-760, May.
    2. Morduch, Jonathan, 2000. "The Microfinance Schism," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 28(4), pages 617-629, April.
    3. Goetz, Anne Marie & Gupta, Rina Sen, 1996. "Who takes the credit? Gender, power, and control over loan use in rural credit programs in Bangladesh," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 24(1), pages 45-63, January.
    4. repec:cup:apsrev:v:90:y:1996:i:02:p:389-397_20 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Foley, Michael W. & Edwards, Bob, 1999. "Is It Time to Disinvest in Social Capital?," Journal of Public Policy, Cambridge University Press, vol. 19(02), pages 141-173, May.
    6. Rahman, Aminur, 1999. "Micro-credit initiatives for equitable and sustainable development: Who pays?," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 27(1), pages 67-82, January.
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    Cited by:

    1. Beard, Victoria A., 2007. "Household Contributions to Community Development in Indonesia," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 35(4), pages 607-625, April.
    2. Togba, Edith Leadaut, 2012. "Microfinance and households access to credit: Evidence from Côte d’Ivoire," Structural Change and Economic Dynamics, Elsevier, vol. 23(4), pages 473-486.
    3. Supriya Garikipati & Susan Johnson & Isabelle Guérin & Ariane Szafarz, 2017. "Microfinance and Gender: Issues, Challenges and The Road Ahead," Journal of Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 53(5), pages 641-648, May.
    4. Solène Morvant-Roux & Isabelle Guérin & Marc Roesch & Jean-Yves Moisseron, 2014. "Adding value to randomization with qualitative analysis : the case of microcredit in rural Morocco," Post-Print ird-01471911, HAL.
    5. Suwastika Naidu, 2016. "Does Human Development Influence Women’s Labour Force Participation Rate? Evidences from the Fiji Islands," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 127(3), pages 1067-1084, July.
    6. Md Aslam Mia & V. G. R. Chandran, 2016. "Measuring Financial and Social Outreach Productivity of Microfinance Institutions in Bangladesh," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 127(2), pages 505-527, June.
    7. repec:bla:ecanth:v:4:y:2017:i:1:p:22-36 is not listed on IDEAS
    8. Arno Tausch & Almas Heshmati, 2012. "Migration, Openness and the Global Preconditions of "Smart Development"," Bogazici Journal, Review of Social, Economic and Administrative Studies, Bogazici University, Department of Economics, vol. 26(2), pages 1-62.
    9. Stuart, Guy, 2006. "Caste Embeddedness and Microfinance: Savings and Credit Cooperatives in Andhra Pradesh, India," Working Paper Series rwp06-037, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
    10. Hanrahan, Kelsey B., 2015. "Living Care-Fully: The Potential for an Ethics of Care in Livelihoods Approaches," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 72(C), pages 381-393.
    11. Rao, Smriti, 2008. "Reforms with a Female Face: Gender, Liberalization, and Economic Policy in Andhra Pradesh, India," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 36(7), pages 1213-1232, July.
    12. Morvant-Roux, Solène & Guérin, Isabelle & Roesch, Marc & Moisseron, Jean-Yves, 2014. "Adding Value to Randomization with Qualitative Analysis: The Case of Microcredit in Rural Morocco," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 56(C), pages 302-312.
    13. Zhang, Yanlong & Zhou, Xiaoyu & Lei, Wei, 2017. "Social Capital and Its Contingent Value in Poverty Reduction: Evidence from Western China," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 93(C), pages 350-361.
    14. Marco Tavanti, 2013. "Before Microfinance: The Social Value of Microsavings in Vincentian Poverty Reduction," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 112(4), pages 697-706, February.
    15. van Staveren, I.P., 2002. "Social capital : what is in it for feminist economics?," ISS Working Papers - General Series 19126, International Institute of Social Studies of Erasmus University Rotterdam (ISS), The Hague.


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