Microfinance does not reduce poverty, but it does successfully construct economic relations between owners of capital and borrowers of capital, allowing surpluses to accumulate through finance. It does so by drawing on the agency of financialised civil society actors who facilitate financialisation by working around the state to build new markets in finance and other goods.
This article understands financialisation as the expansion of the frontier of financial accumulation. Microfinance is shown to achieve this expansion by establishing credit-based linkages between owners and borrowers of capital, allowing surplus accumulation to take place via the credit relation. Underlying this material relationship, there is also a level at which financialisation motivates and pressures civil society actors to bring microfinance to the poor. By becoming financialised agents themselves, civil society organisations act as conduits for an expansion of financial markets and the construction of new market relations for other goods.
A case study of microfinance for water and sanitation in India shows in detail how this construction of markets via civil society works in practice, highlighting the pressures and opportunities presented by microfinance as a vehicle for building markets.