Cattaneo 2012 book review

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  • 1. 84 Book reviewsdirectly speaks to the multilateral approach to by the typically male-dominated disciplineslasting maximalist or positive peace which the of political science and international relations.author explains is essential for global security The section on terrorism could have also beento be ensured. buttressed by a brief historical context out- Sandole has proclaimed his theory to side the confines of the resonant 9/11 brand.be comprehensive though not being overly The adage, ‘one man’s terrorist is anotherhaughty about its potential. He is quick to man’s freedom fighter’ is well illustrated by theremind the reader that the process of conflict African National Congress and the celebratedresolution, particularly on a global scale, is a Nelson Mandela and many others of the Southchallenging process. The fact that the task may African anti-apartheid struggle who were notbe difficult, however, does not mean that the so long ago branded as terrorists for instance.mission is impossible. Sandole’s 3PF has shown There is space for a more all-encompassingwhat has been done and what is still left to be examination of various evolving meanings ofaccomplished in the arena of sustainable global terrorism while still focusing on the new formpeacebuilding. As such, the work provides a of global terrorism we all presently face.comprehensive tool for guiding thinking and These may be taken as mere sugges-action on the blueprint and realization of posi- tions however, as Sandole has undoubtedlytive peace. achieved the goals of this volume. He has Naturally there are some issues with the been successful at contributing to the theoryvolume which may or may not be seen as a and, (hopefully) eventually, the practice ofdrawback by some readers. The writing in peacebuilding. While an ambitious goal, he hasthe text hovers between clear simple ideas realistically pointed out steps that can ensureand anecdotes and jargon-filled lines specific lasting holistic peace, if indeed this is what theto peace and conflict theory. Sections dealing world’s leaders are truly interested in, whichwith game theory and Realpolitik would not be is perhaps an issue for another text.easily understood by the common universitystudent, for whom Sandole has in part written Dalea Beanthe book. Indeed many world leaders may be Assistant Lecturerproven to be ignorant of some of these con- Institute for Gender and Developmentcepts which are properly articulated but not Studieswell explained by the author. From an essen- University of the West Indies Mona,tialist perspective, Sandole has not extensively Jamaicaaddressed the root of warfare in the first place;that is, the idea that mankind has always been Bateman, Milford. 2010: Why Doesn’twarlike in nature, and indeed has often justified Microfinance Work?: The Destructive Rise ofhis actions as necessary for survival and devel- Local Neoliberalism. London: Zed. 256 pp.opment. To this end, a critique of Just War £18.99 paperback. ISBN: 1 848 13332 4.theory would have given a fitting foundation 10.1177/146499341101200107for a text of this nature. In addition Sandole’s3PF would be much more comprehensive after Writing a book against the thesis of a Nobela review of existing peace and conflict theory Prize winner is a great ambition. For more thanput forward by feminist thinkers. A critique of 30 years microfinance has been considered asmaternal peace politics, eco-feminist leanings a mechanism to address poverty reduction;and other ideologies from the feminist camp important NGOs and relevant institutes havewould add an interesting dimension to this defended this practice and have contributed togeopolitical issue which is often overlooked the rise of a misled public narrative. Bateman,Progress in Development Studies 12, 1 (2012) pp. 83–92
  • 2. Book reviews 85based on his consulting and research experi- According to this narrative, poverty reductionence, challenges this assumption and quite well can be achieved by making money availabledismantles the thesis, with clear arguments. to all. Instead, Bateman argues that poverty The main claim is that microfinance does has historically been alleviated through socialnot work as a means for poverty reduction and cooperation, trade unions, struggles, publicfor sustainable economic and social develop- transfers and subsidies.ment. Moreover, it works against it. Furthermore, Bateman shows that some Bateman adds a series of reasons why it alternative cases of microfinance – not baseddoes not contribute to sustainable develop- on the neoliberal philosophy – have been suc-ment by alleviating poverty. He explains that cessful in other locations around the world. Farthe initial model arose in the 1980s and was from being inspired by the neoliberal ideology,based on the Grameen Bank, founded by Nobel these alternatives are based on a mix of coop-Prize winner Muhammad Yunus; he shows erative financing institutions; loans for produc-that it was based on a ‘flawed understanding tive investment rather than for consumption;of basic economic principles’ (p. 6) which, public planning; development of connectivityexcluding some isolated and well-publicized among local networks of different enterprises;success stories, did not help to alleviate pov- and an overall focus on social values, coop-erty in general. Moreover, since the 1990s this eration and human development rather thaninitial microfinance sector has been co-opted profit maximization or economic growth. Theby some trends in development thinking that cases provided stem from the post-Secondhave worked against the original intentions World War development in Japan and Italy,of microfinance. These trends include a sub- to the Mondragon cooperative in the Basquesidy-free neoliberal model of capitalism that Country, from the district in Kerala in India tochanged the original not-for-profit philosophy the original model of microfinance adopted inof microcredit to a profit maximizing one with Vietnam.Wall Street-like management (including big The book starts by showing ways in whichbonuses and gains for the managers of micro- the initial idea of the Grameen Bank might befinance institutions or MFIs). Another dis- considered to be unsuccessful. This financingturbing trend has been a change in the type offinancing operations that shifted the business model, soon inspired by neoliberal ideology,away from real and productive investments had been freed from useful public subsidiesinto inefficient consumer spending. and transformed into the new-wave micro- Consequently, Bateman argues that the finance based on profit maximization ratheractual system of microfinance, connected to than non-monetary objectives, such as povertythe informal and subsistence economies of cli- alleviation.ent microenterprises, has not led to effective Due to these factors, the public narra-investments, growth or indeed an increase in tive of microfinance is now no more than aoverall production. The wrong type of client myth: Bateman argues it does not supportenterprise and a wrong managing philosophy of income-generating activities, nor empowersthe financing institutions are useless and even poorer people or women. A key reason is thatharmful for development. new-wave microfinance has applied interest The author argues that a narrative, built rates at too high a level. Also, one reason whyaround the benefits of the MFI is, in reality, lenders manage to pay back loans is not relatedonly a way to spread neoliberal businesses to the success of their micro enterprise – asamong the poorest. This argument is the commonly believed – but because of extraessence of the book: that microfinance has work done in these informal sectors. Impactencouraged neoliberalism at the micro level. assessment methodologies are proved to be Progress in Development Studies 12, 1 (2012) pp. 83–92
  • 3. 86 Book reviewsmistaken, as they do not consider displace- can also include a redefinition of financialment effects and client failures. Moreover, MFI systems towards greater social and ecologi-support enterprises that are too small, and do cal equity (Schneider et al., 2010). That said,not function sufficiently well in the inefficient Why Doesn’t Microfinance Work? is a relevantinformal and subsistence sectors. These sup- and useful book for development studies andport enterprises are also too disconnected from in the increasingly relevant research field ofother enterprises, and consequently do not degrowth.lead to the building of relationships that canenhance social capital. Conventional microfi- Referencenance has therefore not assisted longer term Schneider, F Kallis, G. and Martinez-Alier, J. 2010: ., Crisis or Opportunity? Economic Degrowth forstructural progress because ‘the poor are really Social Equity and Ecological Sustainability. Journalbeing forced back into their historic isolation of Cleaner Production 18, 1–8.and powerlessness’ (p. 210). In my opinion, this book is a must-read for Claudio Cattaneopractitioners and academics in development Associate Researcherstudies. It offers a critical analysis that seeks Institute of Environmental Scienceto demolish a misleading narrative spread by and Technologyneoliberal ideology, and it provides some ana- (Institut de Ciència i Tecnologialytical case studies of how microfinance has Ambientals: ICTA)succeeded or failed in the past. Barcelona, Spain One possible failing of the book is that itclings rather too strongly to the alternative nar- Shepherd, A. 2011: Tackling Chronic Poverty:rative that poverty reduction and sustainable The Policy Implications of Research on Chronicdevelopment can be achieved through growth Poverty and Poverty Dynamics. Chronic Pov-and industrialization. In fact, non-monetary erty Research Centre, Manchester: Brooksgoals, such as social capital or human devel- World Poverty Institute. ix + 61 pp. ISBNopment, can be de-coupled from economic 978-1-906433-78-9. This report can begrowth. Indeed, the book itself presents one downloaded from the CPRC website: www.example from Kerala in India (p. 185) where chronicpoverty.orghigh human development has been achieved 10.1177/146499341101200108with comparatively little economic growth.But unfortunately, this case study is limited to This report sets out to synthesize the policyjust a few pages in the book, and is not used as implications of 10 years research conducteda central argument. Nonetheless, the author by the Chronic Poverty Research Centre,clearly states that the main characteristic based in The Brooks World Poverty Instituteof poverty is powerlessness. Consequently, in Manchester and the Overseas Developmenthigher consumption or higher per capita Institute in London. This is an unenviableincome might not necessarily alleviate poverty. task given the huge volume of material thatIndeed, the experience from more developed has already been published under the CPRCcountries shows that high economic growth umbrella, including several books and collec-has its social limits. tions of papers that have emerged previously Another possible failing is that the book as syntheses of various aspects of CPRCmakes no mention of ecological limits of work. There is a risk of repetition of argumentsmaterial economic growth or the expansion made elsewhere in CPRC output. However,of microfinance. There are other models of a bigger challenge is to rise above the morallygrowth and ecologically sound sustainable prescriptive: ‘governments or internationaldevelopment that are being discussed, which organisations ought to do X, Y and Z’. Well,Progress in Development Studies 12, 1 (2012) pp. 83–92