Economic Entitlements via Entrepreneurial Conduct? Women and Financial Inclusion in Neo-liberal India
AbstractThis 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.'
Aitken, Rob. 2010. “Ambiguous Incorporations: Microfinance and Global Governmentality.” Global Networks 10 (2): 223-243.
Bhaduri, A. 1986. “Forced Commerce and Agrarian Growth.” World Development 14(2): 267-72.
Bhaduri, A. 1973. “A Study in Agricultural Backwardness under Semi-Feudalism.” Economic Journal 83 (329): 120-37.
Burchell, G. 1996. ‘Liberal Government and Techniques of the Self’. Pp 19-36 in Foucault and Political Reason: Liberalism, Neoliberalism and Rationalities of Government edited by Andrew Barry, Thomas Osborne and Nikolas Rose. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.
Chatterjee, P. 2008. “Democracy and Economic Transformation in India.” Economic and Political Weekly 43(16): 53-62.
Chatterjee, P. 1998. “Development Planning and the Indian State.” Pp 82-103 in The State, Development Planning and Liberalization in India edited by Terence J. Byres. Delhi: Oxford University Press.
Corbridge, S., J. Harriss, S. Ruparelia, and S. Reddy. 2011. “Introduction: India’s Transforming Political Economy’, Pp 1-16 in Understanding India’s New Political Economy: A great transformation? edited by Sanjay Ruparelia, Sanjay Reddy, John Harriss and Stuart Corbridge. London and New York: Routledge.
Ferguson, J. and A. Gupta. 2002. “Spatializing States: Toward an Ethnography of Neoliberal Governmentality.” American Ethnologist 29 (4): 981-1002.
Ghate, P., E. Ballon and V. Manalo. 1996. “Poverty Alleviation and Enterprise Development: The Need for a Differentiated Approach.” Journal of International Development 8 (2): 163-178.
Gonzalez-Vega, C. 2003. “Deepening Rural Financial Markets: Macroeconomic, Policy and Political Dimensions.” Paper for ‘Paving the way forward: An international conference on best practices in Rural Finance.’ Washington D.C., 2-4 June, 2003.
Gupta, A. and K. Sivaramakrishnan. 2011. “Introduction: The State in India after Liberalization”, Pp 1-27 in The State in India after Liberalization: Interdisciplinary Perspectives edited by Akhil Gupta and K. Sivaramakrishnan. London and New York: Routledge.
Harper, M. 2002. “Self-help Groups and Grameen Bank Groups: What are the differences?” Pp 169 - 198 in Beyond Micro-Credit: Putting Development Back into Micro-Finance, edited by Thomas Fisher and M. S. Sriram. New Delhi: Vistaar Publications and UK: Oxfam.
Harriss, J. 2011. “How far have India’s economic reforms been ‘guided by compassion and justice’? Social policy in the neoliberal era” Pp 127-139 in Understanding India’s New Political Economy: A great transformation? edited by Sanjay Ruparelia, Sanjay Reddy, John Harriss and Stuart Corbridge. London and New York: Routledge.
Hulme, D. and P. Mosley. 1996. Finance against Poverty. Volume 1. London and New York: Routledge.
Jackson, C. 1996. “Rescuing Gender from the Poverty Trap.” World Development 24 (3): 489-504.
Johnson, S., and Ben Rogaly. 1997. “Microfinance and Poverty Reduction.” UK and Ireland, Oxfam and ACTIONAID.
Kabeer, N., and Ranjani K.Murthy. 1996. “Compensating for Institutional Exclusion? Lessons from Indian Government and Non-Government Credit Interventions for the Poor”. Sussex: Institute of Development Studies, Discussion Paper – 356.
Karides, Marina. 2010. “Theorizing the Rise of Microenterprise Development in Caribbean Context.” Journal of World Systems Research 16 (2): 192-216
Karim, L., 2011. “Microfinance and its Discontents: Women in Debt in Bangladesh” University of Minnesota Press.
Kohli, R. 1997. “Directed Credit and Financial Reform.” Economic and Political Weekly 32 (42): 2667 – 2676.
Mayoux, L. 2002. “Women’s Empowerment or Feminization of Debt? Towards a New Agenda in African Micro Finance.” Report based on a One World Action Conference. London, March 2002. Available:
Mies, M., 1981. “Dynamics of sexual division of labour and capital accumulation: Women lace workers of Narsapur.” Economic and Political Weekly 16 (10/12): 487-500.
Miller, P. and N. Rose 1990. ‘Governing Economic Life’, Economy and Society, 19 (1): 1-31.
Ministry of Rural Development (MoRD) n.d. “National Rural Livelihoods Mission: Framework for Implementation.” Government of India. Available: http://rural.nic.in/sites/downloads/latest/NRLM_23122010.pdf Accessed 17 March, 2015.
Murray, J. and R. Rosenberg. 2006. “Community-managed Loan Funds: Which Ones Work?” Small Enterprise Development, 17 (3): 13-27.
NABARD. 2013. “Status of Microfinance in India 2012-2013.” Micro Credit Innovations Department, Mumbai: National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development.
NABARD. 2006. “Progress of SHG Bank Linkage in India 2005-06.” Mumbai: National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development
NABARD. 2005. “Annual Report 2004-2005.” Mumbai: National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development.
NABARD. 2002. “Guidelines for the Pilot Project for linking banks with Self Help Groups’, Circular dated 26 February, 1992, Development Policy Department: National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development.
NABARD. 1999. ‘Microfinance Scenario in the Country,’ (Chapter 1) in Task Force on Supportive Policy and Regulatory Framework for Microfinance, Report. Mumbai: National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development
Pagura, M. and M. Kirsten. 2006. “Formal-informal Financial Linkages: Lessons from Developing Countries.” Small Enterprise Development 17(1): 16-29
Polanyi, Karl. 1957. The Great Transformation: The Political and Economic Origins of Our Time. Boston: Beacon Press.
Prahalad C.K. 2005. The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid: Eradicating Poverty through Profits. New Jersey, Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall.
Pulley, Robert V. 1989. “Making the Poor Creditworthy: A Case Study of the Integrated Rural Development Program in India.” World Bank Discussion Papers, Washington DC: The World Bank
Rai, Shirin M. 2008. The Gender Politics of Development. New Delhi: Zubaan and London and New York: Zed Books
Rankin, K.N. 2001. “Governing Development: Neoliberalism, Microcredit and Rational Economic Woman.” Economy and Society 30 (1):18-37.
Razavi, S. 1997. “Fitting Gender into Development Institutions.” World Development 25(7): 1111 – 1125.
Reserve Bank of India. 2011. Master Circular on Priority Sector Lending – Special Programs – SGSY. (http://rbi.org.in/scripts/BS_ViewMasCirculardetails.aspx?Id=6557&Mode=0) Accessed 17 March, 2015
Reserve Bank of India. 2009. “Master Circular on Micro Credit”, Available:
(http://rbidocs.rbi.org.in/rdocs/notification/PDFs/40MCMC010709_F.pdf). Accessed 17 March, 2015
Rose, N. 1999. The Powers of Freedom: Reframing Political Thought. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Sangari, K. 2007. “Shaping Pressures and Symbolic Horizons: The Women’s Movement in India” Pp 36-67 in At the Cutting Edge: Essays in Honour of Kumari Jayawardena edited by Neloufer De Mel and Selvy Thiruchandran. New Delhi: Women Unlimited.
Subramaniam, M. 2015. “Introduction: States and Social Movements in the Modern World-System” Journal of World Systems Research.
Thomas, Caroline. 2000. Global Governance, Development and Human Security: The Challenge of Poverty and Inequality. London: Pluto Press.
Vasavi A.R., and Catherine P. Kingfisher. 2003. “Poor Women as Economic Agents.” Indian Journal of Gender Studies 10 (1): 1-24.
Von Pischke, J.D. 2003. ‘The Evolution of Institutional Issues in Rural Finance: Outreach, Risk Management and Sustainability’, Paper for ‘Paving the Way Forward for Rural Finance: An International Conference on Best Practices’, Washington D.C., 2-4 June, 2003.
Wallerstein, Immanuel and Joan Smith. 1984. “Core-periphery and Household Structures” Pp. 253-262 in Households and the World Economy edited by J. Smith, I. Wallerstein, and H. Evers. Newbury Park: Sage Publications.
Wallerstein, Immanuel. 2004. World-Systems Analysis: An Introduction. Durham and London: Duke University Press.
Weber, H. 2002. “The Imposition of a Global Development Architecture: The Example of Microcredit.” Review of International Studies 28 (3): 537-555.
Wenner, Mark D.1995. “Group Credit: A means to Improve Information Transfer and Loan Repayment Performance.” Journal of Development Studies 32(2): 263-281.
Yunus, Muhammad. 2005. “Eliminating Poverty through Market-based Social Entrepreneurship.” Global Urban Development Magazine 1(1). Available:
http://www.globalurban.org/Issue1PIMag05/Yunus%20article.htm Accessed 17 March 2015
Copyright (c) 2015 K. Kalpana
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Authors who publish with this journal agree to the following terms:
- The Author retains copyright in the Work, where the term “Work” shall include all digital objects that may result in subsequent electronic publication or distribution.
- Upon acceptance of the Work, the author shall grant to the Publisher the right of first publication of the Work.
- The Author shall grant to the Publisher and its agents the nonexclusive perpetual right and license to publish, archive, and make accessible the Work in whole or in part in all forms of media now or hereafter known under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License or its equivalent, which, for the avoidance of doubt, allows others to copy, distribute, and transmit the Work under the following conditions:
- Attribution—other users must attribute the Work in the manner specified by the author as indicated on the journal Web site;
- The Author is able to enter into separate, additional contractual arrangements for the nonexclusive distribution of the journal's published version of the Work (e.g., post it to an institutional repository or publish it in a book), as long as there is provided in the document an acknowledgement of its initial publication in this journal.
- Authors are permitted and encouraged to post online a prepublication manuscript (but not the Publisher’s final formatted PDF version of the Work) in institutional repositories or on their Websites prior to and during the submission process, as it can lead to productive exchanges, as well as earlier and greater citation of published work. Any such posting made before acceptance and publication of the Work shall be updated upon publication to include a reference to the Publisher-assigned DOI (Digital Object Identifier) and a link to the online abstract for the final published Work in the Journal.
- Upon Publisher’s request, the Author agrees to furnish promptly to Publisher, at the Author’s own expense, written evidence of the permissions, licenses, and consents for use of third-party material included within the Work, except as determined by Publisher to be covered by the principles of Fair Use.
- The Author represents and warrants that:
- the Work is the Author’s original work;
- the Author has not transferred, and will not transfer, exclusive rights in the Work to any third party;
- the Work is not pending review or under consideration by another publisher;
- the Work has not previously been published;
- the Work contains no misrepresentation or infringement of the Work or property of other authors or third parties; and
- the Work contains no libel, invasion of privacy, or other unlawful matter.
- The Author agrees to indemnify and hold Publisher harmless from Author’s breach of the representations and warranties contained in Paragraph 6 above, as well as any claim or proceeding relating to Publisher’s use and publication of any content contained in the Work, including third-party content.
Revised 7/16/2018. Revision Description: Removed outdated link.