Locating the Social in Social Lending: A Relational Approach to Platform Lending

Thursday, 19 July 2018: 15:30
Oral Presentation
Chris CLARKE, University of Warwick, United Kingdom
The emergence of online platform lending – once called ‘social lending’ – is commonly thought to present a challenge to dominant banking institutions around the world. Since its inception, platform lending has been closely associated with a set of financial and digital technological innovations, resulting in striking developments in terms of how people engage in lending and borrowing around the world. Conceptually, the paper engages with debates about how emerging practices of valuation and credit assessment in platform lending can be understood using a relational approach. Empirically, the paper explores the novel means through which new sources of digital data are being harnessed in the Global South, with a particular focus on lending in India. Emphasis is placed on the character of the social relations that make up and are constituted by these innovations. In particular, the paper investigates how digital and mobile technologies allow online lending platforms to harness new digital data sources. In turn, it examines how these technologies are underpinned by particular sets of social relations (including gendered and racialised sets of relations), as well as how they are further productive of such social relations. The paper explores the following arguments: (1) platforms facilitating new forms of lending can be best understood through a relational lens; (2) despite the discourse of ‘digital disruption’ surrounding the sector, the practices of valuation involved in platform lending tend to reproduce the relations of finance found in more conventional lending; and (3) the rise of platform lending in India ought to be contextualised within broader political developments associated with ‘fintech’ and demonetisation.