Labour, Finance and Social Dynamics


Isabelle GUERIN

Start Date: May, 2003
Status: Ongoing

Project Details

Department Social Sciences
Funding Agency(ies)












Team Venkatasubramanian GOVINDAN
Email isabelle.guerin AT ird DOT fr

Project Description


Since 2003, this research programme has been working on labour, finance and social dynamics in rural southern India, starting from financiarisation. Southern economies, including rural southern India, are increasingly monetarized but also increasingly financiarised. Households have growing needs for financial services, whether to protect from the uncertainties of daily life, to fund life cycle events, to acquire consumer goods, including statutory goods, or to invest in income generative activities. Unlike what is often thought, the poor are not financially excluded: they are highly financiarised but in particular, barely formal ways. These are the combined outcome of local practices and a wide range of development projects and policies, such as microfinance, financial inclusion policies and other initiatives targeting the ‘bottom of the pyramid’. Financiarisation at the margins can bring about new forms of exploitation and inequality. But it can also lead to innovative forms of solidarity.

Financiarisation offers a way in to understanding various broader socioeconomic and political forces, such as the evolution of public action and development policies, blurred distinctions with market forces, shifts in labour relationships and social protection regimes, and the emergence of consumeris, including among the poor. 

Our analysis is based on two distinct but complementary theoretical frameworks. Firstly, a political economic framework based on the structural dialectics producing political and economic differentiation within and between societies. Secondly, a moral economic framework based on individual and collective moralities and the cultural values that pervade economic social relations.

The program has explored various topics over the past decade:

- the complexity and diversity of financial and monetary practices in various communities, in terms of juggling and calculation frameworks; 

- the social regulation of money, finance and debt in relation to various institutions such as class, caste, gender, ethnicity, religion, space and its cultural variation;

- the emergence of household over-indebtedness, as influenced by rising consumption, income stagnation and absent social protection;

the renewal of bondage relationships;

- the ambiguity of microfinance and financial inclusion programs;

- the emergence of innovative forms of solidarities and political mobilisation;

Two projects are currently in progress:

1/ Feminist Analysis of Social and Solidarity Economy Practices: Views from Latin America and India. What are the practices, social relations and power relations to social reproduction within the Social and Solidarity Economy (SSE)? What is the contribution of SSE to the renewal of public action and policies in the field of production and social reproduction? SSE organisations located in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil and India have been selected where in-depth studies at the micro-level will be developed, using feminist anthropological approaches. At the meso- and macro-level, the project will explore the interactions between SSE and political debate, action and public policies, using feminist economics, sociology and political science approaches. These multi-scalar and pluri-disciplinary studies will produce comparative analysis and contribute to substantial conclusions, both at theoretical and policy levels. Funding: SNIS (Project leader: Christine Verschuur, IHEID)

2/ Financialisation and Its Impact on Domestic Economies:An Interdisciplinary Enquiry in the Context of Select Indian States. The first objective of the study is to unravel the concrete interactions between local populations and the various actors of financialisation with a view to understand the effects of these interactions on the daily lives of individuals. We will be concerned with 1) unravelling the financial markets dynamics of microcredit innovation in India over the last century 2) exploring the new bank-led initiatives of financial inclusion and financial sector deregulation and 3) social-solidarity models that function as alternatives to mainstream financial institutions. The second objective is theoretical. It aims at renewing the conceptualisation of financialisation by going beyond, the current approaches widely dominated by behavorial economics ot the serious neglect of social and political dimensions of domestic economies. Funding: ICSSR (Project leader: Tara Nair, GIDR)

Completed projects:

Main outputs:
Selective list of publications:


- Guérin I. Labie M. Servet J.-M. (eds) (2015) The crises of microcredit, London: Zed Book.

- Guérin I. (2014) La microfinance et ses dérives. Emanciper, discipliner ou exploiter ? Paris : Demopolis.

- Guérin I. Morvant-Roux S. Villarreal M. (eds) (2013) Microfinance, debt and Over-indebtedness. Juggling with money, London: Routledge.

- Breman J. Guérin I. Prakash A. (eds) (2009) India's unfree workorce. Old and new practices of labour bondage, Delhi: Oxford University Press.

- Servet J.-M. (2006) Banquiers aux pieds nus, Paris: Odile Jacob.

Journal special issues:

- Lerche J. Guérin I. Srivastava R. (eds) (2002) Labour Regulations and Labour Standards in India, Special issue of Global Labour Journal.

- Fouillet C., Harriss-White B., Hudon, M. and Copestake J. (2013), The Field of Microfinance and Development: Showcasing India, Special Issue of Oxford Development Studies, Vol. 41, Supplement Issue 1, 132 p.

Journal Articles:

- Augsbourg B., Fouillet C. (2010) Profit Empowerment: The Microfinance Institution’s Mission Drift, Perspectives on Global Development and Technology, vol. IX, nos 3-4, (no spécial  Microfinance and Institutions), p. 327-355.

- Fouillet C., Harriss-White B., Hudon, M. and Copestake J.  (2013), Microfinance Studies: Introduction and Overview, Oxford Development Studies, 41(1): S1-S16.- Fouillet C. et Pairault Th. (2010), Microfinance : une “discipline” diversement accueillie en Chine et en Inde, Economie et Institutions, Vol. 8, N° 1, pp. 123-146.

- Fouillet C. (2007), Les risques climatiques : quel rôle pour la microassurance ?, Autrepart, Vol. 44, pp. 203-216.

- Goedecke J. Guérin I., D’Espallier B.,Venkatasubramanian G. (2017) Why do financial inclusion policies fail in mobilizing savings from the poor? The social and cultural regulation of saving in rural India, Development Policy Review, 1-19.

- Guérin I. Kumar S. (2017) The uneasy relationship between market and freedom. Is microcredit a source of empowerment or domination for women? Journal of Development Studies (special issue Microfinance and Women’s Empowerment), 53(5): 741-755.

- Guérin I. (2014) Juggling with debt, social ties and values, Current Anthropology, vol. LV, no 9, 2014, p. S40-S50.

- Jauzelon C., (2007) Microfinance et pratiques sociales des femmes paraiyars en Inde du sud : solidarité « organisée » ou solidarité « héritée » ?, Revue Tiers Monde 2/ 2007 (n° 190) : 275-289.

- Joseph N. (2013) Mortgaging Used Saree-skirts, Spear-heading Resistance: Narratives from the Microfinance Repayment Standoff in Ramanagaram, India, 2008-2010 in Guerin, I. Morvant-Roux, S. and Villarreal, M. (eds) Microfinance, Debt and Over-Indebtedness: Juggling With Money.    London: Routledge 272-295.

- Picherit D. (2012) Migrant Labourers’ Struggles Between Village and Urban Migration Sites: Labour Standards, Rural Development and Politics in South India, Global Labour Journal: Vol. 3: Iss. 1, p. 143-162.