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Finance capitalism is not different in nature from capitalism in general. The idea that there is something more wholesome about production-based capitalism is an illusion we must abandon. It ignores the fact that finance capitalism is also based on production and unequal and exploitative class relations, although in a more circuitous way. A feminist critique of financial capitalism, then, cannot be substantially different from a critique of capitalism in every other form. Nevertheless, looking at finance capitalism from the viewpoint of women, we can gain an insight into some of the ways in which our everyday reproduction and the relation between women and capital have changed.
We see first that financial transactions—through credit cards, student loans, mortgages—have become part of our everyday means of subsistence. Like male workers, many women too have come to rely on them to make ends meet and satisfy their desires. This by itself indicates that the world of finance is not a fictitious sphere of capitalist relations, but reaches deeply into our day-to-day lives. It also indicates that, increasingly, women now confront capital directly, rather than through the mediation of the male wage, as was the case for women who worked exclusively in the home, or through the mediation of the state, as was the case of women on welfare and other forms of social assistance. Indeed, through the entanglement of finance capital in the working of our daily lives, financialization has become one of the main grounds of confrontation between women and capital, and this is an international phenomenon.
We see the same dynamics with the development of micro-credit in Africa, Latin America, and parts of Asia. Micro-finance has become one of the main tools by which international agencies have attempted to bring a whole population of women formerly engaged in subsistence economies under the control of global monetary relations by encouraging them to see themselves as market entrepreneurs and take out loans for small enterprises. While these programs have been heavily promoted by investors, banks and “development” professionals in the global North, they have proven one of the most contested policies directed towards women worldwide, since far from ‘empowering’ women (as the rhetoric goes) they are turning them into debtors and, in this way, transforming their daily micro-reproductive/marketing activities into sources of value-creation and accumulation for others. In some cases (e.g. in Bolivia in 2002) women have besieged the banks to protests their debts and the extortionist policies banks and lenders have enforced. There have also been cases of women who have hanged themselves because they could not pay back their debts.
This situation shows that when we speak of a “financial crisis” we must be very careful not to assume that we speak of one reality alone. For surely the massive indebtedness that women have incurred both in the North and the South, through credit cards, loans or micro-credit, is a financial crisis in itself!