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Global Development Institute

Re-visiting microfinance entrepreneurship in Bangladesh: Can losers be choosers?

Mathilde Maitrot

Abstract 

Drawing on ethnographic data from Bangladesh in this article I examine how microfinance entrepreneurship is signified, experienced and used. The ideology of the enterprising individual, an actor-driven conceptualisation of development, appears to have been internalised in rural Bangladesh. By examining the pervasive enmeshment of economic, social and moral meanings of entrepreneurship I attempt to explain microfinance participation. For many, the idea of becoming an entrepreneur offers means to conform to the moral order and to eschew social and relational risks. MFI agents foster and broker clients’ participation through heralding stories of moral idols. Subsequently many clients pursue sets of tactics, I term ‘making do’, with little strategic foresight to navigate MFIs’ organisational rules and risks associated with their livelihoods. This process alienates the relationship between clients and credit officers. The latter often resort to using forceful means and violent threats to enforce financial discipline to recruit, retain and discipline clients. These processes exacerbate vulnerable clients’ exposure to social, moral and relational dynamics microfinance claims to challenge, and undermine individual entrepreneurship.

 

Keywords 

Microfinance, moral order, entrepreneurship, Bangladesh, development.

 

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