Governing Development: Neoliberalism, Microcredit, and Rational Economic Woman

Impact of microcredit initiatives on poverty reduction and gender inequality
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This paper critiques the emergence of microcredit programs as a preferred strategy for poverty alleviation world-wide.

The consensus that microcredit can alleviate poverty has led to a shift in development practice from state-led to market-led approaches. Further, development interventions increasingly target women as agents of progress. Taking Nepal as an example, the paper argues against microcredit, stating that it:

  • Represents a shift in development rationality;
  • Takes away the state's responsibility to make financial capital accessible to the rural poor;
  • Shifts responsibility of securing economic opportunity on to individuals;
  • Develops an image of women as entrepreneurs with cultural propensities to invest wisely and look after their families and communities;
  • Leads to state power and gender oppression;
  • Reflects a change in specifying the subjects of development from beneficiaries with social rights to clients with responsibilities to themselves and their families.

Finally, the paper examines how these constructed subjectivities might fare in practice, and provides the foundation for a socially situated critique of microcredit and market-led strategies.

About this Publication

By Rankin, K.