The last three decades have seen social enterprises in the United Kingdom pushed to the forefront of welfare delivery, workfare and area-based regeneration. For critics, this is repositioning the sector around a neoliberal politics that privileges marketization, state roll-back and disciplining community groups to become more self-reliant. Successive governments have developed bespoke products, fiscal instruments and intermediaries to enable and extend the social finance market. Such assemblages are critical to roll-out tactics, but they are also necessary and useful for more reformist understandings of economic alterity. The issue is not social finance itself but how it is used, which inevitably entangles social enterprises in a form of legitimation crises between the need to satisfy financial returns and at the same time keep community interests on board. This paper argues that social finance, how it is used, politically domesticated and achieves re-distributional outcomes is a necessary component of counter-hegemonic strategies. Such assemblages are as important to radical community development as they are to neoliberalism and the analysis concludes by highlighting the need to develop a better understanding of finance, the ethics of its use and tactical compromises in scaling it as an alternative to public and private markets.
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