Pluto Press Logo

Independent Radical Publishing




On the Blog

A Critical History of Poverty Finance

A Critical History of Poverty Finance

Colonial Roots and Neoliberal Failures

by Nick Bernards

A comprehensive historical tracing of how the contemporary finance-poverty-development nexus emerged

Finance, mobile and digital technologies - or 'fintech' - are being heralded in the world of development by the likes of the IMF and World Bank as a silver bullet in the fight against poverty. But should we believe the hype?

A Critical History of Poverty Finance demonstrates how newfangled 'digital financial inclusion' efforts suffer from the same essential flaws as earlier iterations of neoliberal 'financial inclusion'. Relying on artificially created markets that simply aren't there among the world's most disadvantaged economic actors, they also reinforce existing patterns of inequality and uneven development, many of which date back to the colonial era.

Bernards offers an astute analysis of the current fintech fad, contextualised through a detailed colonial history of development finance, that ultimately reveals the neoliberal vision of poverty alleviation for the pipe dream it is.

Nick Bernards is Associate Professor of Global Sustainable Development at the University of Warwick. He is the author of A Critical History of Poverty Finance: Colonial Roots and Neoliberal Failures and The Global Governance of Precarity: Primitive Accumulation and the Politics of Irregular Work.

'Nick Bernards has crafted the definitive account of the history of poverty finance, skilfully revealing its entanglements with the uneven development of capitalism'

- Susanne Soederberg, Professor of Global Political Economy at Queen's University, Canada

‘In this outstanding history of poverty finance, Nick Bernards show that financial exclusion persists not because of a lack of design or fancy technology but because the problem of uneven development is persistent and structural’

- Andrew Leyshon, Emeritus Professor of Economic Geography at the University of Nottingham

'A much-needed book that should be read by anyone interested in the expansion of finance into everyday life. Rich with empirical details and comprehensive in its theoretical engagement with the interrelationship between finance and social justice, it throws into sharp relief how impoverished the conception of poverty reduction is when it relies on financial inclusion to improve welfare of people'

- Johnna Montgomerie, Professor of International Political Economy at King's College London

'In this exemplary study, Nick Bernards shows why so many were seduced into wrongly believing that poverty finance might be the key to eradicating global poverty. In fact, its deployment was about advancing the narrow enrichment priorities of the powerful. A major contribution in the study of the politics of finance'

- Milford Bateman, author of 'Why Doesn't Microfinance Work? The Destructive Rise of Local Neoliberalism'

Part I. Poverty finance and the antinomies of colonialism
1. A colonial problem
2. Poverty finance and nascent neoliberalism
3. Structural adjustment, backlash, and the turn to the local: Explaining the rise of microfinance
Part II. Making markets for poverty finance
4. Commercialising community: Experiments with marketisation
5. From microcredit to financial inclusion
Part III. Innovation to the rescue?
6. The forever-latent demand for microinsurance
7. Fintech and its limits

Published by Pluto Press in Aug 2022
Paperback ISBN: 9780745344829
eBook ISBN: 9780745344843

135mm x 215mm