Alleviating poverty or reinforcing inequality? Interpreting micro-finance in practice, with illustrations from rural China

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Abstract

Academic and political discussions about micro-finance have been found lacking in predictive power, because they are based on orthodox economic theory, which does not properly comprehend the social components of credit. I take a better approach, utilizing credit theory – specifically, Ingham's explication of how the nature of money as credit leads to social inequality. I also expound the perspective that morality is not separate from considerations borrowers make in micro-finance programmes on the micro level. I draw upon illustrations from my fieldwork in rural China, where a group-lending micro-finance programme was administered as part of a larger government-initiated effort across the country.

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