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Social Capital, Microfinance, and the Politics of Development

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  • Katherine Rankin

Abstract

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

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    1. 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.
    2. Morduch, Jonathan, 2000. "The Microfinance Schism," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 28(4), pages 617-629, April.
    3. 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.
    4. 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.
    5. repec:cup:apsrev:v:90:y:1996:i:02:p:389-397_20 is not listed on IDEAS
    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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