The World Bank and the American Empire

Authors: Edward Ramsamy*, Rutgers University
Topics: Development, Third World, Economic Geography
Keywords: Development, World Bank, empire, hegemony
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/7/2019
Start / End Time: 3:55 PM / 5:35 PM
Room: Marshall North, Marriott, Mezzanine Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The United States emerged as the dominant world superpower after World War II. As the United States consolidated its position as the leader of the “free world,” multilateral institutions like the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank emerged as important instruments to leverage the global political and economic interests of the United States. The World Bank is one of the most powerful multilateral development institutions in the world. It exerts considerable influence on international development discourse and practice, leading some commentators to conclude that the World Bank “has more to say about state policy than many states themselves.” The primary aim of the paper is to overview the role the United States played in the establishment, location and structure of the World Bank at the Bretton Woods Conference of 1944. The paper will argue that the World Bank plays an important role in facilitating the hegemonic influence of the United States over policy discourses and practices in global South. The paper will conclude by examining the “50 Years Is Enough” campaign that called for a radical restructuring of World Bank policies during the 50th anniversary commemorations of its founding. The conclusion will also analyze the relevance of the World Bank in light of current development trends, such as the rise of the BRICS; China’s growing influence on international development policy; and the rising tides of nationalism in the developed world that are causing governments to reassess their commitments to multilateral development institutions.

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