Substantive Progress or Neoliberalism in Disguise? An Analysis of the World Bank’s Discourse on Corruption since 1995
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I undertake a discourse analysis of World Bank documents from 1995 to the present to explore scholarly debates surrounding the question, “To what extent are the World Bank’s efforts to combat corruption evidence of its attempts to further the neoliberal agenda, characterized by the original Washington Consensus?” Since the late 1990’s, the World Bank has been a leader in the fight against corruption, integrating anti-corruption into its operations worldwide and making it a major issue addressed in World Development Reports, Presidential speeches, and specific anti-corruption strategies. While some scholars see this as an evolutionary move away from neoliberalism, others see the focus on corruption as a way for the Bank to continue to advance and expand the neoliberal agenda after the failure of structural adjustment programs. I argue that while the World Bank’s anti-corruption strategy featured distinctly neoliberal ideals in its early years, over time it has moved away from a focus on liberalization and competition to a more holistic focus on transparency and civic participation as pillars of good governance.