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Tracing the roots/routes of World Bank power

Michael Goldman (University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, USA)

International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy

ISSN: 0144-333X

Article publication date: 1 January 2005

Abstract

Most of the literature on the World Bank struggles to understand precisely how effective are the Bank’s projects and policies, emphasizing at the same time as reaffirming certain universal parameters with which to measure the good and the bad. This article, by contrast, argues for a different way of seeing the World Bank, that is, for scholarship that interrogates the political rationalities which underlie these distinctions and categories and which make these parameters and measures viable, necessary, and enduring. Indeed, most writings – including the innumerable self‐evaluations carried out by the Bank – simultaneously note the enormity of the Bank’s past misdeeds as well as its unique position as the only global institution up to the monumental task of translating global truths into global plans of action. Because of its unique role as the global development expert, the Bank is always two steps ahead of the pack, always re‐assessing and re‐tooling for improvement in ways that most national and international institutions cannot. Who else can respond so quickly to catastrophes around the globe – appearing one month in Thailand, the next in Argentina, and, in a bomb’s flash, in Afghanistan and Iraq? In a world in which global crises routinely erupt and “require” global experts of development to resolve them, the Bank and its affiliates in the World Bank Group have no rivals. But, rather than ask why the Bank’s responses are ultimately insufficient or flawed, we must first ask how problems get defined in terms of global crises and their solutions in terms of global development institutions in the first place? How did these ideas and institutions become so influential? What power dynamics do they embody?

Keywords

Citation

Goldman, M. (2005), "Tracing the roots/routes of World Bank power", International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, Vol. 25 No. 1/2, pp. 10-29. https://doi.org/10.1108/01443330510791270

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2005, Emerald Group Publishing Limited