Despite massive investment of money and research aimed at ameliorating third-world poverty, the development strategies of the international financial institutions over the past few decades have been a profound failure. Under the tutelage of the World Bank, developing countries have experienced lower growth and rising inequality compared to previous periods. In Beyond the World Bank Agenda, Howard Stein argues that the controversial institution is plagued by a myopic, neoclassical mindset that wrongly focuses on individual rationality and downplays the social and political contexts that can either facilitate or impede development.
Drawing on the examples of Africa, Asia, Latin America, and transitional European economies, this revolutionary volume proposes an alternative vision of institutional development with chapter-length applications to finance, state formation, and health care to provide a holistic, contextualized solution to the problems of developing nations. Beyond the World Bank Agenda will be essential reading for anyone concerned with forging a new strategy for sustainable development.
A nuanced critique of how the World Bank encourages gender norms through its policies, Developing Partnerships argues that financial institutions are key players in the global enforcement of gender and family expectations.
By combining analysis of documents produced and sponsored by the World Bank with interviews of World Bank staffers and case studies, Kate Bedford presents a detailed examination of gender and sexuality in the policies of the world's largest and most influential development institution. Looking concurrently at economic and gender policy, Bedford connects reform of markets to reform of masculinities, loan agreements for export promotion to pamphlets for indigenous adolescents advising daily genital bathing, and attempts to strengthen institutions after the Washington Consensus to efforts to promote loving couplehood in response to economic crisis. In doing so, she reveals the shifting relationships between development and sexuality and the ways in which gender policy impacts debates about the future of neoliberalism.
Providing a multilayered account of how gender-aware policies are conceived and implemented by the World Bank, Developing Partnerships demonstrates as well how institutional practices shape development.
World Bank President Jim Yong Kim has vowed that his institution will fight poverty and climate change, a claim that World Bank presidents have made for two decades. But if worldwide protests and reams of damning internal reports are any indication, too often it does just the opposite. By funding development projects and programs that warm the planet and destroy critical natural resources on which the poor depend, the Bank has been hurting the very people it claims to serve. What explains this blatant contradiction?
If anyone has the answer, it is arguably Bruce Rich—a lawyer and expert in public international finance who has for the last three decades studied the Bank’s institutional contortions, the real-world consequences of its lending, and the politics of the global environmental crisis. What emerges from the bureaucratic dust is a disturbing and gripping story of corruption, larger-than-life personalities, perverse incentives, and institutional amnesia. The World Bank is the Vatican of development finance, and its dysfunction plays out as a reflection of the political hypocrisies and failures of governance of its 188 member countries.
Foreclosing the Future shows how the Bank’s failure to address the challenges of the 21st Century has implications for everyone in an increasingly interdependent world. Rich depicts how the World Bank is a microcosm of global political and economic trends—powerful forces that threaten both environmental and social ruin. Rich shows how the Bank has reinforced these forces, undercutting the most idealistic attempts at alleviating poverty and sustaining the environment, and damaging the lives of millions. Readers will see global politics on an increasingly crowded planet as they never have before—and come to understand the changes necessary if the World Bank is ever to achieve its mission.
To review the references and notes with links to articles, please click on the "Resources" tab at https://islandpress.org/foreclosing-the-future.
David Ellerman relates a deep theoretical groundwork for a philosophy of development, while offering a descriptive, practical suggestion of how goals of development can be better set and met. Beginning with the assertion that development assistance agencies are inherently structured to provide help that is ultimately unhelpful by overriding or undercutting the capacity of people to help themselves, David Ellerman argues that the best strategy for development is a drastic reduction in development assistance. The locus of initiative can then shift from the would-be helpers to the doers (recipients) of development. Ellerman presents various methods for shifting initiative that are indirect, enabling and autonomy-respecting. Eight representative figures in the fields of education, community organization, economic development, psychotherapy and management theory including: Albert Hirschman, Paulo Freire, John Dewey, and Søren Kierkegaard demonstrate how the major themes of assisting autonomy among people are essentially the same.
David Ellerman is currently a Visiting Scholar in the Economics Department at the University of California at Riverside.
Despite the World Bank’s profound impact on economic, political, and social conditions during the post–World War II era, cultural critics who rigorously theorize other institutions of colonialism and globalization have largely ignored the institution. Working to correct this blind spot, Bret Benjamin’s Invested Interests presents the first extended cultural analysis of the World Bank.
In Invested Interests, Benjamin contends that the World Bank has, from its inception, trafficked in culture. From the political context in which the Bank was chartered to its evolution into an interventionist development agency with vast, unchecked powers, Benjamin explores the Bank’s central role in the global dissemination of Fordist-Keynesianism, its conflicted support for nationalism and the nation-state, and its emerging awareness of the relationships between economics and culture. Benjamin argues that the Bank shapes, and is in turn shaped by, historical pressures of the age—most significantly the rise of third world national liberation movements. Reading a broad array of midcentury archival materials, Benjamin examines not only the Bank’s own growing attentiveness to cultural work but also its prominent place in the thinking of such anti-imperialist intellectuals as Aimé Césaire, Frantz Fanon, and Richard Wright.
Benjamin maps the Bank’s contemporary rhetorical maneuvering in the wake of ever-intensifying protests, offering close readings of the World Bank’s corporate literature, the activities of the antiglobalization World Social Forum, and the writings of prominent Bank critic Arundhati Roy, including her novel The God of Small Things.
Deftly investigating the World Bank’s ideological struggles over six decades, Invested Interests develops a conceptually and politically nuanced critique of the Bank as a cultural institution deeply enmeshed in the last century’s historical transformations of imperial power and anti-imperial struggle.
Bret Benjamin is associate professor of English and director of undergraduate studies at the University of Albany, SUNY.
The 1992 Rio Earth Summit was supposed to be a turning point for the World Bank. Environmental concerns would now play a major role in its lending—programs and projects would go beyond economic development to “sustainable development.” More than two decades later, efforts to green the bank seem pallid.
Bruce Rich argues that the Bank’s current institutional problems are extensions of flaws that had been present since its founding. His new book, Foreclosing the Future, tells the story of the Bank from the Rio Earth Summit to today. For readers who want the full history of the Bank’s environmental record, Rich’s acclaimed 1994 critique, Mortgaging the Earth, is an essential companion.
Called a “detailed and thought-provoking look at an important subject” by The New York Times, Mortgaging the Earth analyzes the twenty year period leading up the Rio Summit. Rich offers not only an important history but critical insights about economic development that are ever-more relevant today.