The World Bank and the Ideology of Reform in International Economic Development Discourse

Posted: 23 May 2006

See all articles by Joel M. Ngugi

Joel M. Ngugi

University of Washington - School of Law

Date Written: May 20, 2006


Does the current development reform agenda, especially the one operationalized by the World Bank, is Ideological? If so, does it matter? These are the two questions that animate this article. In answering both questions in the affirmative, the article first demonstrates how the current development reform agenda is Ideological. It then discusses why and how it matters that the development reform agenda is Ideological. First, the article argues that Ideological rendering of the development reform agenda effectively weakens the ability of Third World countries to articulate their economic and foreign policies in ways that would benefit their citizenry the most. Second, since the World Bank, as the other international financial institutions (IFIs) which are the key players in the development reform agenda are international organizations which are meant to reflect the collective will of their members, the charge of Ideological bias should be taken more seriously than it has been in the past. Third, the Ideology of reform and development enables the construction of a discourse which obfuscates the real causes of poverty and "underdevelopment" and therefore undermines the efforts to find real solutions to world poverty. Fourth, and related, the Ideological development discourse thus produced facilitates the building of stable alliances between national political and economic elites in Third World countries, IFIs, and multinational corporations. These alliances are sometimes at odds with one another but, overall, they operate to stabilize the international economic system as presently configured by containing any major threat of major rapture. These alliances therefore ensure the continued underdevelopment of the Third World and undermine the very goal of development for which these IFIs were formed.

Keywords: World Bank, Ideology, International Financial Institutions, Law and Development

Suggested Citation

Ngugi, Joel M., The World Bank and the Ideology of Reform in International Economic Development Discourse (May 20, 2006). Available at SSRN:

Joel M. Ngugi (Contact Author)

University of Washington - School of Law

William H. Gates Hall
Box 353020
Seattle, WA 98105-3020
United States

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