A neoliberalisation of civil society? Self-help groups and the labouring class poor in rural South India

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This paper notes the prominence of self-help groups (SHGs) within current anti-poverty policy in India, and analyses the impacts of government- and NGO-backed SHGs in rural North Karnataka. It argues that self-help groups represent a partial neoliberalisation of civil society in that they address poverty through low-cost methods that do not challenge the existing distribution of power and resources between the dominant class and the labouring class poor. It finds that intra-group savings and loans and external loans/subsidies can provide marginal economic and political gains for members of the dominant class and those members of the labouring classes whose insecure employment patterns currently provide above poverty line consumption levels, but provide neither material nor political gains for the labouring class poor. Target-oriented SHG catalysts are inattentive to how the social relations of production reproduce poverty and tend to overlook class relations and socio-economic and political differentiation within and outside of groups, which are subject to interference by dominant class local politicians and landowners.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)485-512
Number of pages28
JournalThe Journal of Peasant Studies
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2010

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