© 2020 Elsevier Ltd By applying critical dialogics to “surface the political”, we interrogate the microfinance industry's disputed claims of promoting women's empowerment in developing countries. We counterpose two competing ideological framings: the currently dominant neoliberal discourse of “microfinance minimalism” and a counter-hegemonic discourse articulated in gender and development studies. By examining the chains of signification and key signifiers in each discourse, we specify the political frontier that separates them. We then use these contested perspectives to analyze how a microfinance NGO in Bangladesh operates, which shows how they are dominated by neoliberal discourse that precludes more enabling alternatives. Drawing on our critical dialogic analysis, we consider possibilities for change and their implications for accounting and accountability systems. In so doing, we contribute to an emergent body of accounting literature drawing on critical dialogics to critique neoliberal ideas, values and practices and to propose alternative critical accounting and accountability systems consistent with a dialogic approach.