Chapter 1: The challenges of social investment through the lens of microfinance
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The rhetoric of social investment is grand and clear, and the basic vision is simple: to support a new sort of capitalist endeavor driven by pursuit of social progress rather than just pursuit of profit. Yet the reality can be messy. How could it not be? Modern history has been shaped by the tensions between unbridled capitalism and struggles for social and economic justice. So it is not surprising that in the same 12 months that publishers release hope-filled books on social investment like A World of Three Zeros: The New Economics of Zero Poverty, Zero Unemployment and Zero Net Carbon Emissions (Yunus 2017), other publishers release bubblebursting exposes like Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World (Giridharadas 2018). Against the backdrop of these tensions, the world of social investment somehow embraces both market denialism and market fundamentalism. It depends on large subsidies while deploying anti-subsidy rhetoric. Definitions and practice have become so squishy that the coiner of one of the seminal terms of social investment, the “triple-bottom line”, recently suggested “recalling” the term because it is now essentially meaningless (Elkington 2018).

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