Change and Continuity at the World Bank

Change and Continuity at the World Bank

Reforming Paradoxes of Economic Development

Peter J. Hammer

This fascinating book examines the World Bank’s capacity for change, illustrating the influence of overlapping political, organizational and epistemic constraints. Through comprehensive historical and economic analysis, Peter J. Hammer illuminates the difficulties faced by recent attempts at reform and demonstrates the ways in which the training and socialization of Bank economists work to define the policy space available for meaningful change.

Chapter 3: A framework for modeling Bank behavior

Peter J. Hammer

Subjects: development studies, development economics, economics and finance, development economics, financial economics and regulation, international economics


The World Bank is a complex institution to model or understand. The framework developed here highlights the overlapping effects of (1) political, (2) organizational, and (3) epistemic constraints. Political concerns reflect the demands and pressures placed upon the Bank as an actor in the international community. Organizational concerns reflect the capacities and limitations derived from the Bank as an institution, with its specific structure, staff, management, and internal politics, policies, and procedures. The epistemic concerns reflect the direct and indirect effects that neoclassical economics has upon the Bank, as a matter of theory, worldview, and the socialization of economists. These domains constitute sets of independent and overlapping influences. At times, politics may be an independent concern, separate and apart from organizational and epistemic considerations. In other ways, political and organizational concerns, or political and epistemic concerns can interact in important ways. The role of the Executive Directors and the share-weighted voting system are obvious illustrations of how organization and politics overlap. Epistemic and political concerns can overlap in less obvious, but no less important, ways. A particular economic worldview is embedded in Western politics, embodying a specific tem- plate for the proper relationship between the state and the market. This limits the set of potential economic theories that can be considered viable and constrains the Bank’s ability to learn and adapt to empirical information that is dissonant with the tenets of its dominant political economy. Similarly, we will see how changes in the composition of Bank management and staff, over time,

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