Business Books

We interview the author of a book on how access to credit empowers and enslaves

Providing credit to black South Africans is seen as a vital part of financial inclusion. But it’s a double-edge sword; empowering some while disempowering others.

In “Money from Nothing: Indebtedness and Aspiration in South Africa” author Deborah James, Professor of Anthropology at the London School of Economics, exposes the diverse ways in which middle- and working-class South Africans’ access to credit is closely tied to identity, status and a desire to move into a higher socio-economic class.

James reveals the dark side of debt and how indebtedness is replacing old forms of disenfranchisement with new forms of oppression.

James does well to capture the lived experience of indebtedness of millions of people in developing nations who are striving to move up the social ladder or sustain their livelihoods.

Access to credit has allowed people to build homes, educate their children and start businesses. Many others, however, are drowning in debt while the banks are laughing all the way to the bank.

We interviewed James about her book.

Listen to the audio (scroll down) for more detail.

Many in South Africa feel that the only way to gain economic freedom is to get into debt. It’s a very complex problem.

Deborah James, Professor of Anthropology at the London School of Economics

I found as much evidence of frugality as of indebtedness in my research.

Deborah James, Professor of Anthropology at the London School of Economics

It’s difficult to say if micro-lending has done more harm than good.

Deborah James, Professor of Anthropology at the London School of Economics

Lenders must be held accountable for reckless lending.

Deborah James, Professor of Anthropology at the London School of Economics

This article first appeared on 702 : We interview the author of a book on how access to credit empowers and enslaves


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