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A Genealogy of Governing Economic Behaviour: Small-scale credit in Malawi 1930–2010
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Economic History.
2013 (English)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

In this thesis the aim has been to analyse changes and continuity in the governing of economic behaviour in small-scale credit schemes in colonial Nyasaland and independent Malawi from 1930 until 2010. Furthermore, how the effects of history in terms of how colonial and post-colonial development discourses and practices have been rephrased and reused in the early 21st century are discussed. The study focuses on the teaching and fostering of borrowers’ economic behaviour in order to reach increased living standards. The genealogical approach to the history of small-scale credit has made it possible to analyse a selection of colonial and post-colonial small-scale credit programs and microcredit organisations operating in the early 21st century.

To analyse the governing of economic behaviour in the small-scale credit schemes, three aspects of the Foucauldian concept of governmentality are used: problematics of government, political rationality and governmentality technologies.

The findings of the thesis, which are based on interviews, unofficial and official written sources, show that the genealogy of governing economic behaviour through small-scale credit schemes has varied over time depending on perceptions of the ideal actor’s economic behaviour. Despite this, some continuities have been identified. For example, there is a continuity in the problematics of government, the analysis of the perceived development problem and how small-scale credit was to be a solution. The study indicates that a linear and universal financial history is used in theory and practice and consequently that the local Malawian national history of small-scale credit has been ignored.

Despite different political rationalities during the period there is a continuity in funding small-scale credit with external money, and the government’s interest in small-scale credit has also persisted. One effect of history is that small-scale credit seems to be politically efficient, but economically inefficient. In the colonial period and in more recent times, it seems like governmentality technologies regarding lending are quite ad hoc, for example regarding the supervision and distributions of loans. One effect of history is subordinated positions for borrowers and a governing towards economic responsibility, rather than entrepreneurship.


Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis, 2013. , 290 p.
Uppsala Studies in Economic History, ISSN 0346-6493 ; 97
Keyword [en]
governmentality, small-scale credit, microcredit, Malawi
National Category
Economic History
Research subject
Economic History
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-206643ISBN: 978-91-554-8740-9OAI: diva2:644931
Public defence
2013-10-11, Hörsal 2, Ekonomikum, Kyrkogårdsgatan 10, Uppsala, 10:15 (Swedish)
Available from: 2013-09-20 Created: 2013-09-02 Last updated: 2014-01-23

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Värlander, Johanna
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