Change and Continuity at the World Bank
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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.
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Chapter 6: Application to social capital

Reforming Paradoxes of Economic Development

Peter J. Hammer


The World Bank’s work with social capital theories provides a window to examine the Bank’s ability to respond to challenges that come from outside the epistemic domain of economics. The history of “social development,” of which social capital is simply the latest manifestation, goes back to the 1970s, when the Bank was focusing on integrated rural development in its fight against poverty. Consultants argued that employing anthropologists and sociologists might make these Bank projects more effective. Since then, the Social Development Network, under its various guises, has been the home of most of the Bank’s social scientists. Many participants of this network have sought to transform the Bank from the inside out. “It is reasonable to argue that throughout the group’s existence, most members have aimed to alter the way the Bank as an institution understands development and have been searching for a way of framing these alternatives theoretically, and in ways that other professional constituencies in the Bank would understand.” To state the objective slightly differently, the agenda was to make inroads into how neoclassically trained economists understood development and therefore help transform the Bank’s epistemic approach to its primary mission. The Bank has been subject to no shortage of external critiques and attacks. Significantly, Anthony Bebbington and his colleagues tell an insider’s story, exploring the potential for human agency and change from within the institution. The World Bank might be viewed as a battlefield of knowledge with different arenas in which the contests are waged: internally among its staff

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