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Abstract

In recent years, international banks, investment agencies, and development institutions have created new markets for capital accumulation by rapidly expanding the commercial microfinance industry in the global South. In Cambodia, which has one of the largest microfinance industries in the world, the typical loan amount now exceeds the average annual household income and requires land-based collateral. Cambodian borrowers are increasingly over-indebted, compelling families to reduce their food consumption, take out new loans to service prior debts, migrate, and/or sell their land in distress. In this paper, we investigate this last effect of over-indebtedness, distress land sales. We argue that the exclusionary power of microfinance debt—constituted by collateralized legal contracts, discourses of moral responsibility, and public shame—is driving land dispossession among the country’s most vulnerable people. To make our argument, we draw on ethnographic fieldwork, supplemented by quantitative data from the Cambodia Socio-Economic Survey, MIX Market, and two industry-sponsored large-scale quantitative surveys of over-indebtedness. We trace the rise of the commercial microfinance industry, show how it has contributed to over-indebtedness, and consider how household debts can lead to distress land sales. These land sales have largely gone unacknowledged in the industry because they take place through informal channels rather than the court system. We conclude that microfinance-debt induced land dispossession in Cambodia is a product of an overly commercialized international microfinance industry that now values profits over people.

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... Another issue raised by farm mortgages relates to land dispossession. Political ecologists and development geographers, building on agrarian Marxist theories of rural differentiation, have argued that the rise of interlocked land and credit markets has driven new waves of dispossession in the global south (Casolo and Doshi, 2013;Green and Bylander, 2021;Hall, 2004;Hall et al., 2011;Li, 2014a;Taylor, 2011). According to this literature, debt is a mechanism of alienating land from rural producers once capitalist market imperatives and property relations have been established in the countryside. ...
... They are also shaped by powers of legitimation and regulation. Similar to the morality of microfinance, debt-driven dispossession is frequently legitimized by shifting responsibility of default onto borrowers and coercing land sales through public shaming practices (Green and Bylander, 2021). Moreover, states have variously intervened in land markets to regulate debtdriven land sales in response to agrarian discontent and revolt (Hall et al., 2011). ...
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Credit to Capabilities focuses on the controversial topic of microcredit's impact on women's empowerment and, especially, on the neglected question of how microcredit transforms women's agency. Based on interviews with hundreds of economically and socially vulnerable women from peasant households, this book highlights the role of the associational mechanism – forming women into groups that are embedded in a vast network and providing the opportunity for face-to-face participation in group meetings – in improving women's capabilities. This book reveals the role of microcredit groups in fostering women's social capital, particularly their capacity of organizing collective action for public goods and for protecting women's welfare. It argues that, in the Indian context, microcredit groups are becoming increasingly important in rural civil societies. Throughout, the book maintains an analytical distinction between married women in male–headed households and women in female-headed households in discussing the potentials and the limitations of microcredit's social and economic impacts.
Indonesia’s new president, Joko Widodo, is new to foreign affairs and seemingly has little interest in diplomacy, a marked contrast with his predecessor Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who sought a role as an international statesman. Instead, Jokowi — as he prefers to be known — has declared that he will focus on domestic affairs as part of a broad reform programme, with a particular emphasis on strengthening Indonesia’s maritime infrastructure and reasserting the authority of the state. However, an activist presidency in these areas, even if intended only as a domestic effort, will create unintended foreign policy challenges for Indonesia because the country’s economic and maritime interests are so closely intertwined with those of its neighbours. This article examines Jokowi’s statements on foreign affairs, offers a survey of his foreign affairs advisers and places the president in the country’s historical and political context. It then examines potential flashpoints in Indonesia’s relationships with its neighbours over Jokowi’s agenda. It argues that under Jokowi, foreign policy is likely to become less clear, less conciliatory and less cooperative, with negative consequences for Indonesian leadership in the region. This article critically analyses an intuitive and influential conceptual framework by which to understand state strategy in territorial conflicts. According to this framework, a state in a territorial dispute can pursue one of three general strategies: threaten or use force; offer territorial concessions; or delay. This article argues that it is problematic to regard these three candidate strategies as mutually exclusive. It is argued that not only can a strategy of escalation be compatible with one of delay, but many uses of force can be employed instrumentally in service of delaying. The framework, this article contends, does not so much capture “strategy” as it does certain aspects — or outcomes — of strategy, which while appropriate for certain analytical tasks is less so for others. The 2012 Scarborough Shoal incident is examined and China’s strategy during the event is scrutinized with a view towards assessing the strengths and weaknesses of applying the framework to an analysis of narrower scope. Lastly, it is argued that a framework for conceptualizing state strategy in territorial disputes should not be confined to three alternatives; it should be more broadly constructed, allowing for more nuance and taking seriously all the domains of statecraft.
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The article examines the development of the new "debt economy," especially the expansion of individual debt, in its relation to the main props of the neoliberal agenda: the precarization of work, the dismantling of the "welfare state," and the increasing financialization of reproduction. The debt-based economy and the production of mass indebtedness, which must be viewed as a response to the accumulation crisis caused by the social struggles of the 1960s and 1970s, represents an important transformation in class relations. "Debt" hides class antagonism, individualizes workers, and weakens resistance to exploitation. In particular, "debt" undermines social solidarity, as in the case of microfinance where failure to repay loans results in much physical and psychological violence against the mostly female borrowers. The article traces the rise of antidebt movements, especially in Latin America and the United States, underlining their importance in the regeneration of the social fabric and the collectivization of resistance to banks, nongovernmental organizations, and debt collectors.
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Through fourteen in-depth interviews1 conducted in February 2013 with women from Boeung Kak Lake—a high-profile community under threat in Phnom Penh—this article argues that the occurrence of, and activism against, forced eviction is an embodiment of “intimate geopolitics.” The article demonstrates the manifold relationship that forced eviction reflects and ferments between homes, bodies, the nation-state, and the geopolitical transformation of Southeast Asia. Forced eviction is framed as a geopolitical issue, one that leads to innermost incursions into everyday life, one that has spurred on active citizenship and collective action evidencing the injustices of dispossession to diverse audiences, and one that has rendered female activists’ intimate relationships further vulnerable. In doing so, it charts how Boeung Kak Lake women have rewritten the political script in Cambodia by publicly contesting the inevitability accorded to human rights abuses in the post-genocide country.
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Few studies have attempted to systematize the broader consequences of ordinary indebtedness – the inevitable other side of credit. My purpose here is to suggest four preliminary theses on the role of indebtedness in the evolution of capitalism, with special reference to the rural sphere. I argue that across time and space, credit/debt relations have not only been a key factor behind social differentiation through the control of land, labour and capital (Thesis I). They have also fostered market discipline by forcing the borrower – whether a poor peasant or a company manager – to calculate, pay, trade, work, intensify (Thesis II). Interest-bearing and guarantee-based loans have thus generated pressures for economic growth, short-termism and innovations, but have also undermined traditional community bonds and environmental conditions (Thesis III). Through its remarkable reward-or-punish nature, the credit/debt couple represents a powerful mechanism of social selection that has, in the long run, crucially shaped the evolution of capitalism (Thesis IV).
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In recent years cities around the world have undergone mass slum clearances for redevelopment. This study of Mumbai offers an alternative interpretation of urban capital accumulation by investigating the differentiated political subjectivities of displaced slum residents. I argue that Mumbai's redevelopment entails not uniform class-based dispossessions but a process of accumulation by differentiated displacement whereby uneven displacement politics are central to the social production of land markets. Two ethnographic cases reveal that groups negotiate redevelopment in contradictory ways, supporting or contesting projects in varying moments. Redevelopmental subjectivities are influenced at key conjunctures by market-oriented resettlement, ideologies of belonging, desires for improved housing, and participation in non-governmental groups. This articulated assemblage of power-laden practices reflects and reworks class, gender, and ethno-religious relations, profoundly shaping evictees' experience and political engagement. The paper concludes that focusing on differentiated subjectivities may usefully guide both analysis and social justice practice aimed at countering dispossession.
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Increasingly, research seeks to understand how environmental distress motivates migration, often focusing on the importance of singular events such as flood, drought or crop loss. This article explores the case of a Cambodian community where environmental shocks have been frequent over the past decade and international migration has increased. It shows that as a result of recurring and varied environmental shocks, households increasingly perceive agriculture-based livelihood strategies as unwise and risky. This perception is widespread even among households not directly experiencing income loss. As a result, households use migration as a replacement for local livelihood strategies. These findings support two arguments relevant for future research and policy. First, that environmental shocks have importance beyond their immediate, direct impact. Second, that recurring shocks can influence preferences for and risk perceptions of local investments. Thus for policies to effectively address environmental vulnerability and/or rural development in precarious environments, they must incorporate local understandings of risk and possibility.
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Interest in rural financial development has been booming, but often with a blind eye to the broader consequences. Very few studies have tackled the unintended economic, social and ecological outcomes of ordinary indebtedness, the inevitable other side of credit. This article explores some of the main ‘hidden’ side-effects of credit/debt relations, with special reference to the Indonesian plantation sector. I argue that widespread credit/debt relations are not only an important factor behind capital, land and labour control; they also generate constraints that foster market discipline and contribute to undermine traditional community bonds as well as environmental conditions. More generally, credit/debt relations represent a powerful mechanism of social selection that has, in the long run, crucially shaped the trajectory of capitalism at the household, firm and government levels.
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Microcredit's potential for poverty reduction is a highly contested issue. In Cambodia, the dramatically increasing commercial microcredit coexists with widespread private moneylending. These two practices are rooted in different economic world views: neoliberalism on the one hand, and the traditional Khmer economic sociality permeated by patronage on the other. The ethnography shows that far from competing with each other, microcredit and private lending have adapted to form a symbiotic relationship, and much private lending is financed through microcredit. While microcredit is often beneficial to people living well above the poverty line, the widespread access to credit, through microloans as well as private lending, is threatening the livelihoods of the economically most vulnerable and precipitating their social, economic and spatial exclusion from their local communities. In contrast to the social and economic exclusion caused by land grabbing and forced evictions, which has received a fair amount of public attention, exclusion as a consequence of indebtedness has, for sociocultural reasons, remained much less visible.
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Critical scholars have made extensive use of the concepts of primitive accumulation and accumulation by dispossession to analyse the global land grab. These concepts have been crucial to efforts to understand the land grab in terms of the creation, expansion and reproduction of capitalist social relations, of accumulation by extra-economic means, and of dispossessory responses to capitalist crises. This paper provides an overview of these approaches. It also argues that there are substantial challenges involved in the use of primitive accumulation and accumulation by dispossession, including tensions and ambiguities over what the concepts mean, the assumptions embedded within them and problems of fit with other conceptualisations of the land grab. The paper also highlights resources for engaging with these challenges in the land grab literature.
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This paper builds a critical geography of poverty finance with recourse to a relational comparison of the microfinance and subprime mortgage markets. It probes paradoxical claims about the nature of poverty, the poor, states and markets that have surfaced in the aftermath of the financial crisis. In doing so it aims to generate new understandings of neoliberal global finance with specific emphasis on 1) the social constitution of risk through racialised and gendered forms of difference; 2) the exercise of dispossession and imperialism by financial means; and 3) articulations of poverty finance with the social relations of debt in specific conjunctures. Each of these terrains of inquiry forms a subsection of the paper, following a preliminary section that poses the animating paradox in more detail. The paper concludes with some reflections on the conditions of possibility for democratising finance.
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Agricultural programme planners have commonly assumed that, to adopt new crops and inputs, small-scale farmers need financial loans, and that private land titles help them to borrow by providing a form of collateral for mortgages. The experience of the over 2 million Luo people and others in Kenya shows how inappropriate this theory can be in a tropical African context. With a land-holding system based on patriliny, the hosting of in-laws, and other principles, Luo tend to live among kin. They continue to justify land claims largely by labour, by the presence of ancestral graves, and by the group membership these represent. These patterns persist despite individual titling by the government since the 1950s. Financial institutions trying to foreclose on defaulters, and buyers trying then to move on to those lands, face stiff social a~hd political resistance, sometimes violent. The government land register obsolesces, and double-dealing proliferates. The mortgage system breaks down. Other problems in exogenous finance are legion. Credit means debt. It also means patronage, at international, national, or local levels. Neither public nor private financial institutions have overcome the great cultural, political, or pragmatic difficulties of lending to small farmers for staple food cropping or most other farm activities. These people have important debts and obligations of their own already, some quite subtle and some long-term. The promise of more loans, the most commonly cited justification for freehold tenure, proves largely illusory in western Kenya, as in many other rural parts of tropical Africa. Aid strategies based on saving and investment, and on non-financial intervention, hold more promise. Résumé Ceux qui ont établi la planification agricole ont assumé de facon générate que, pour adopter les nouvelles cultures et ressources, les fermiers à petite échelle ont besoin de prêts financiers, et que le titre de propriétaire leur permet d'emprunter en constituant une sorte d'engagement pour une hypothéque. L'exemple du peuple Luo de plus de deux millions et des autres au Kenya, montre que cette théorie n'est pas due tout appropriee dans le contexte d'une Afrique tropicale. En raison d'un systeme foncier basé sue l'héritage père-fils, le recueillement des belles-families, et d'autres principes, les Luo ont tendance à vivre en communaute familiale. Us continuent à justifier leurs demandes de terres essentiellement par leur travail effectué, par la présence des tombes ancestrales, et par l'appartenance au groupe que celles-ci représentent. Ces modèles persistent, même depuis que le gouvemement a attribué des titres de propriété individuels à partir des années 1950. Les institutions financières qui tentent de saisir les débiteurs, et les acheteurs qui essaient de prendre possession de ces terres, se heurtent à une résistance ferme à la fois sociale et politique, et parfois même violente. Le registre des terres du gouvemement tombe en désuetude, et le procédé du double-jeu prolifère. Le système de l'emprunt s'effondre. Les autres problèmes en finance exogène sont multiples. Le credit est un signe de dette. II signifie aussi le patronage, aux niveaux international, national, ou local. Aucunes institutions financières publiques ou privées n'ont pu surmonter les grandes difficultés culturelles, politiques ou pragmatiques pour prêter à de petits fermiers pour la production alimentaire de base ou la plupart des autres activités de la ferme. Ces gens ont déjà leurs propres dettes de reconnaissance, à plus ou moins long terme. La promesse d'emprunts supplémentaires, ce qui est le plus regulièrement utilisé pour justifier la propriété fonciére libre, se revèle être fortement illusoire dans le Kenya de l'ouest, comme dans beaucoup d'autres régions de l'Afrique tropicale. Les stratégies d'aides basées sur l'épargne et l'investissement, ainsi que sur des interventions non financieres donnent plus d'espérances.
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Cambodia has undergone substantial changes since the United Nations' sponsored election in 1993. Politically, the country has become increasingly stable under the domination of the ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP). Economically, Cambodia has achieved an unprecedented level of economic performance, with GDP growth averaging almost 10 percent annually during the five years preceding the current economic crisis. In spite of these improvements in political and economic conditions, land rights have emerged as a major issue affecting the lives of many poor Cambodians. Comprehensive overall analysis of land policy reforms in the country remains lacking, however, and this article fills a void in the existing literature. Our analysis shows that despite land policy reforms in the past decade, Cambodia's land rights problems continue unabated. What accounts for this development? Through analysis of government land policies, an array of primary documents, and interview data from government officials and investors, this article questions the relevance of Cambodia's land policy reforms. Its central premise is that although past collectivization and weak governmental institutions have contributed to land rights issues, it is neopatrimonialism—a mechanism that dictates political interaction among the elites and between the elites and the electorate and resources governance and distribution—that perpetuates land rights problems and limits land policy reform.
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This is an attempt to investigate the reasons for the muted formation and development of capitalist relations in Indian agriculture, even while commercialisation in output markets has advanced considerably. Analysing the qualitatively differing character of exchange involvement, resting on the class basis of a differentiated peasantry, we have noted the differential dynamics that commercialisation entails for different classes and its overall, macroeconomic consequences. We argue that the desperate dependence on land as the basis for survival, with no alternative permanent means of livelihood, perpetuates the perverse exchange relations and retards productive accumulation. Most employment‐generating schemes sponsored by the state turn out to be ameliorative, providing only an intermittent supplementary source of income. This, along with the weak pull of a tardy industrial growth, only stabilises the petty‐holders. It is the preponderance or otherwise of petty‐holders, who are in no position to undertake productive accumulation themselves but could provide the ground for diversion of surplus into unproductive uses, that shapes the accumulation process.