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New development approaches and the adaptability of international agencies: the case of the World Bank


  • Ascher, William


Certain “realist” views of the international economic regime construe international financial agencies as straightforward reflections of the power and interests of nation states. However, the World Bank's responsiveness to a wide range of demands for new development priorities and approaches also depends on the compliance of its huge staff. The staff's discretion in shaping, implementing, discrediting, or resisting these approaches requires an organizational-theoretic analysis of the sources of acceptance of or resistance to particular initiatives. Role-set theory accounts for many of the motivational sources of resistance. The capabilities to resist new initiatives through “bureaucratic politics” can be understood through March and Simon's emphasis on the importance of absorbing uncertainty. On the basis of these theories and findings on attitudes expressed by Bank staff, strategies can be developed to enhance the Bank's responsiveness to such initiatives as greater emphasis on the alleviation of poverty. Theory and findings also provide a basis for speculating on the characteristics required of an international agency to warrant treating it as an autonomous variable in the international system.

Suggested Citation

  • Ascher, William, 1983. "New development approaches and the adaptability of international agencies: the case of the World Bank," International Organization, Cambridge University Press, vol. 37(03), pages 415-439, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:cup:intorg:v:37:y:1983:i:03:p:415-439_03

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    Cited by:

    1. Robert K. Fleck & Christopher Kilby, 2006. "World Bank Independence: A Model and Statistical Analysis of US Influence," Review of Development Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 10(2), pages 224-240, May.
    2. Alexandra Lindenthal & Martin Koch, 2013. "The Bretton Woods Institutions and the Environment: Organizational Learning within the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF)," Administrative Sciences, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 3(4), pages 1-36, October.

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