The World Bank: a critical analysis of the World Bank's ideological framework: poverty alleviation and development

Ngwendere, Samantha
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This thesis is situated within the study of International Relations. It centers on a critical analysis of the World Bank’s ideological framework towards its poverty reduction and development goals. It seeks to provide an understanding of the ideas, ideals, and values that form the basis of the Bank’s development thinking. Ideology plays an important role in this thesis, as the way the World Bank thinks of and pursues development is of great importance; it speaks to the ideology of development, not just within the Bank, but within the global structure of development. Literature that is reviewed in this thesis suggests that the Bank leans towards a neo-liberal ideology. The selected text for the analysis, The World Development Report: Attacking Poverty (2000-01) will also be analysed in order to review the principles that have been adopted by the Bank and the development community at large. In order to understand and explore the factors that influence the Bank’s ideological framework, this study employs two levels of analysis through a critical theoretical framework and discourse analysis as a methodological tool. The first level of analysis looks at internal sources of influence; the Bank’s voting and governance structure. The second level considers external sources of influence, such as intellectual culture and bureaucratic culture. As stated above, a critical analysis of the Bank’s key document, the World Development Report: Attacking Poverty (2000-01), will also be carried out. This thesis concludes that through internal sources of influences such as the unequal voting shares; powerful actors such as the United States have shaped the Bank’s thinking towards development, as the Bank’s view of development leans towards Anglo-American norms and values as well as interests. Through external sources of influence, the Bank has been dominated by an economic discourse, which Wade (2006) has termed ‘economic imperialism’. Through its hiring, promotion and research publications, the Bank has favored the discourse of economics. Through its financial power within the global arena, the Bank has the power to influence the development narrative, its ideas and values of development have been normalized and universalized within the development community. Its financial strength and research output, both within the Bank and the global arena, are some of its aspect that aid in the maintenance of the status quo in development, consequently, this has led to other views that are not in line with the Bank to be ignored and neglected. The Bank has also presented the neoliberal ideology as the best means to achieve development and alleviate poverty, this is evidenced through the Bank’s key text, as neoliberal principles such as privatisation and deregulation are presented as the only way to achieve development. This thesis also recognises that the Bank does not exists in a vacuum, it ideology, norms and values are also heavily influenced by events that take place on the international sphere, such as the economic crises of the 1970s that influenced the Bank’s position on poverty and development.
A dissertation submitted to the School of International Relations of the University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg in part-fulfillment of the requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts, March 2017
Ngwendere, Samantha (2017) The World Bank: a critical analysis of the World Bank's ideological framework: poverty alleviation and development, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, <>