Economic Entitlements via Entrepreneurial Conduct? Women and Financial Inclusion in Neo-liberal India

K. Kalpana


This paper examines the gendered local character of neoliberalism at the household level by focusing on microcredit/finance programs in India. Microfinance promoted by the state as an informal activity targeting women is intended to alleviate income inequalities, even as it contributes to maintaining the world capitalist system. In India the inception of microfinance-based Self Help Groups (SHGs) or peer groups of women savers and borrowers in the 1990s has coincided with a rightward turn towards neoliberal policies of structural adjustment, privatization and economic deregulation. In this paper, I show how Indian policy makers have endeavored to make women's economic entitlements contingent upon their disciplined financial behavior and their willing participation in neoliberal agendas of creating and deepening 'self-regulating' markets at village levels. Drawing on an ethnographic study conducted in a South Indian state, I show that the community level 'neoliberal disciplining' that microfinance entails does not proceed without resistance. Whilst SHGs seek to constitute women as fiscally disciplined savers and borrowers, women stake their 'rightful' entitlement to bank credit even as they reject outright the entrepreneurial subjectivities they are expected to assume. They pursue purposes and ends that extend well beyond 'financial inclusion.'


Microfinance; Women; Neoliberal Govemmentality; Capitalist Accumulation; India

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