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 10: The future of development

Peter J. Hammer

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


Where does the future lie? Part of the answer can be found in the kernels of truths at the heart of the Wolfensohn era reforms: development is complex (CDF); people and participation must be part of the process (PRSPs); knowledge and learning are key (Knowledge for Development); social relations and context are critical (social capital); and governance and the institutional infrastructures underlying effective forms of cooperation are essential (institutional economics). Part of the answer lies in the need to transcend the strictures of traditional neoclassical eco- nomics in each of these domains and introduce new, multidisciplinary dialogues. But part of the answer must also lie in the need to reexamine how knowledge about development is constructed, understood, and implemented by IFIs. The fundamental problem with the World Bank historically has been that it is an expert-led system in a policy domain where no extant system of expert knowledge exists that can provide effective answers to the quandaries of development. Radical changes are therefore necessary to the very manner in which development policy is conceived and practiced. Mallaby states the challenge as follows: The shift in outlook that’s needed is best captured by a scientific metaphor. The old Bank had an engineer’s mindset: It designed ideal systems on its drawing board, then went out and tried to build them. The new Bank, by contrast, needs to think like a doctor. The first step is to understand the human organism in all its complexity, the second is to prescribe an intervention

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