Excerpt from “The Political Economy of Microfinance: Financializing Poverty”, Chapter 3, The Financialization of Poverty.

The expansion of microfinance as part of the global process of financialization has hinged on mobilizing narratives which act as affirmative and prohibitive stories about what finance can and should do, about what is right and wrong, and about where and how finance should operate. As Akerlof and Shiller (2009: 51, 55-56) explain, “the human mind is built to think in terms of narratives”, particularly when it comes to “the expectations for personal success in business, the success of entrepreneurial ventures, and for payoffs to human capital” which underlie financial decisions.

Such narratives which give meaning to finance historically have featured centrally in processes of financial change. As Calder (1999) shows, the acceptance of debt into the household as part of a “normal” and “decent” lifestyle required an active redefinition of what it meant to use credit – the emergence of a new, positive narrative. Similarly, Harrington (2008) shows how during the dot.com bubble, people came together in groups to create, affirm and celebrate new and desirable identities as “investors”, enacting new narratives of social rise and participation through finance. Following de Goede (2005), more fundamentally, Western finance has always followed strongly gendered narratives which gave meaning to financial practices by aligning them with desirable or less desirable identities.

While stories and mobilizing narratives always matter in finance, in microfinance they are even more salient. Microfinance is anchored in the contemporary public imaginary through certain narratives of empowerment through finance (cf. Elyachar 2012) and of poverty as a problem of finance. Credit (or its inverse – debt) is represented and understood as a force for liberating women from traditional gender identities, allowing innate entrepreneurs to prosper, or helping poor people to manage their difficult economic lives better – notions which grant finance the power to develop people. The ubiquitous client success stories in donor organizations and MFIs’ publications, as well as countless media exposés, are key building blocks of the narratives. Read the rest of this entry »

It’s lingered quite a while in the pipeline. My book The Political Economy of Microfinance: Financializing Poverty is finally due to hit shelves in June – so says the publisher. This book makes the enigmatic microfinance sector more understanable by tracing its evolution and showing what it is today: a leading edge of financialisation where the world of global poverty meets the world of global finance.

The Political Economy of Microfinance Financialising Poverty

The book is the product of several years of research at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies in Cologne. In 2008, I set out to investigate the connection of microfinance with water and sanitation, which brought me to southern India. Then the Andhra Pradesh microfinance crisis happened, and this eye-opener led me to re-examine microfinance more broadly and fundamentally, critically evaluate it as a highly remunerative but crisis-prone financial system (no longer a development intervention), and challenge its most basic premise: that poverty is a problem of finance.

I’m already excited about whatever reactions (critical, or otherwise) may follow when my ideas, analysis and critique finally reach a broader audience. To give some indications of what the book says and does, I’m posting excerpts from The Political Economy of Microfinance here over the next few months.

Here’s the first. Read the rest of this entry »

One of the things that make blogs particularly interesting are series. The “series” series recommends series at related blogs. 

Logo of the AoM Interest Group Strategizing, Activities & Practices

Logo of the AoM Interest Group Strategizing, Activities & Practices

For some time now, the digital revolution has reached and changed everyday research practices. There is hardly any part of the research process for which no digital tool is available, starting from creating a mind map of your first idea (e.g. “Freemind”) over collecting (e.g. “Sitesucker”) and coding your data (e.g. “WebQDA”) to collaboratively annotating and writing (e.g. “eLaborate”). And while many of these digital tools require substantial financial investments, a growing number of tools is available open access and free of charge.

Read the rest of this entry »

Yesterday the German comedian Jan Böhmerman claimed responsibility for a YouTube video where Yanis Varoufakis, the current Finance Minister of Greece, had allegedly stuck the finger to Germany. The video had been featured in Germany’s most popular Sunday evening talk show “Günther Jauch“. Confronted with this video as a guest of the show, Yanis Varoufakis denied the accuracy of the footage and instead claimed that the video had been “doctored”. However, most of the German media were convinced by the video, the German tabloid “Bild” even explicitly called Varoufakis a “Lügner” (“liar”):

In the video below (English subtitles start at 3:00 min), Böhmermann now describes in a very detailed manner how he and his team (allegedly?) had faked the segment of the video where Varoufakis shows his middle finger and claims that he had conspired with the organizers of the Croation conference where the video had been made to spread the fake version of the video.

Read the rest of this entry »

Unter dem Titel “Entgrenzte politische Teilhabe? Beiträge zu einer politischen Soziologie transnationaler Mobilisierungs- bzw. Partizipationsprozesse” plant der DVPW-Arbeitskreis “Soziologie der internationalen Beziehungen (SiB)” seine nächste Arbeitstagung in Kooperation mit dem Verein für Protest- und Bewegungsforschung und dem Bereich soziale Bewegungen, Technik, Konflikte des Zentrums Technik und Gesellschaft der TU Berlin. Die Arbeitstagung findet am 12. Juni 2015 in der TU Berlin statt. Für die Beteiligung an der Tagung ruft das Organisationsteam jetzt zur Einreichung von Beiträgen auf. Read the rest of this entry »

Futures banner

« Riches is assumed by many to be only a quantity of coin, because the arts of getting wealth and retail trade are concerned with coin. Others maintain that coined money is a mere sham, a thing not natural, but conventional only, because, if the users substitute another commodity for it, it is worthless … and, indeed, he who is rich in coin may often be in want of necessary food. But how can that be wealth of which a man may have a great abundance and yet perish with hunger, like Midas in the fable, whose insatiable prayer turned everything that was set before him into gold? »

… thus wrote Aristotle in his book on “Politics”.

More than 2000 years on, it is far from clear that we as societies have developed an understanding of money that surpasses the conundrums the great Greek grappled with. Certainly the modern Greeks are grappling their own monetary conundrums. Only this much is clear: today money is everywhere.

Present crises and the emergence of new ideas are reshaping money’s forms, functions, politics and meanings in ways that promise to shape our societies for years to come. The conference which Axel Paul, Cornelius Moriz, and I are hosting in September at the University of Basel engages some of the problematic questions underlying attempts to obtain satisfying theories of money, as well as contemporary attempts to shape and change money. Our conference focuses on the politics of money (in the broadest sense), the different forms and functions of money, and utopias and dystopias of money. Read the rest of this entry »

After we had published the edited volume “Governance across borders: transnational fields and transversal themes“ based on a selection of blog posts in 2013 (the CC-licensed book is available as an on-demand-printed edition, as a PDF and as an Epub), we returned to blogging as usual in 2014. Please find our traditional end-of-year statistics below.

Top 5 blog posts 2013 (in terms of visitors):

  1. Measuring the “Adoption” of International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRSs)*
  2. EU Commission’s Consultation Report Shows: Current Copyright is Unbalanced
  3. The State of IFRS in Africa: Is IFRS in Disarray?*
  4. The “invisible epidemic”: non-communicable diseases*
  5. In partial agreement with SKS on what caused the Indian Microfinance Crash

* also in the Top 5 of 2013

Top 5 search terms guiding visitors to our blog in 2013:

  1. Andhra Pradesh microfinance crisis (also #1 in 2011 & 2012, #2 in 2013)
  2. methodological nationalism
  3. feudal society trade map
  4. securitization (also #4 in 2013)
  5. google transnational

Top 5 countries our visitors came from in 2013 (last year’s position in brackets):

  1. United States (1)
  2. India (2)
  3. Germany (3)
  4. United Kingdom (4)
  5. Canada (5)

Top series in 2013:

  1. Algorithm Regulation (5 out of 10 posts in 2014)
  2. The Series Series (1/9)
  3. Wise Cartoons (1/6)

In total we published 30 new posts in 2014, which is only half of last year’s 61 and below our self-set goal of blogging about once a week on average. Seemingly, Phil completing his PhD (followed by an offline trecking tour) and myself becoming a father hurt our blogging statistics. Accordingly, we also received fewer comments and visitor numbers dropped, as well, but not too sharply, from over 40,000 in 2013 to about 34,000 in 2014. Our new year’s resolution is therefore to at least beat our 2014 numbers in 2015.

govxborder2014

(leonhard)

In the series “algorithm regulation”, we discuss the implications of the growing importance of technological algorithms as a means of regulation in the digital realm. 

In the last entry of this series I have described how YouTube’s Content ID system effectively re-introduces registration requirements into copyright, even though international treaties such as the Berne Convention forbid such requirments. With its most recent additions to YouTube’s rights management infrastructure, YouTube owner Google brings the former’s rights clearing services to a whole new level.

Previously, creators using copyrighted material such as contemporary pop music in one of their videos could only try to upload their videos and hope for the best (i.e. no recognition by the Content ID algorithm) or the second best (i.e. recognition by the Content ID algorithm but acceptance/monetization by rights holders). In any case, creators could only definitely know after making and uploading a video whether and how YouTube’s algorithms would react.

In a recent blog post, YouTube has announced substantial changes to this system:

But until now there was no way to know what would happen if you used a specific track until after you hit upload. Starting today, you can search the YouTube Audio Library to determine how using a particular track in your video will affect it on YouTube, specifically if it will stay live on YouTube or if any restrictions apply. You can uncross those uploading fingers now!

Read the rest of this entry »

The slides and text below were prepared for a public hearing of the European Parliament’s Committee on Legal Affairs and the Committee on Culture and Education
 on “The Future Development of Copyright in Europe”, November 11, 2014, in Brussels (see PDF of the program). It builds on an analysis of the European Commission’s report on on the responses to the Public Consultation on the Review of the EU Copyright Rules.

Read the rest of this entry »

Over at the Strategizingblog, I have blogged about a current pardigmatic struggle in the realm of organizational strategy research. In a recent article in the Strategic Management Journal, Bromiley and Rau (2014, Preprint-PDF) suggest to adopt a “Practice-based View” (PBV) on strategy. What sounds very similar to approaches labelled strategy-as-a-practice, is actually merely a rhetorical assimilation tactic:

Effectively, all this renders the PBV practice-based in name only. Neither is the PBV rooted in practice theory nor does it propose a methodological approach equipped to empirically capture practices. Rather, the PBV as outlined by Bormiley and Rau treats practices more or less as variables.

Read the full article.

(leonhard)

The Book

Governance across borders: transnational fields and transversal themes. Leonhard Dobusch, Philip Mader and Sigrid Quack (eds.), 2013, epubli publishers.
April 2015
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