Journal Article


The World Bank and its Growing Knowledge Empire

Published on 1 January 2001

This paper critically examines the emerging knowledge agenda at the World Bank. From the publication of the World Development Report 1998-99 on “Knowledge for Development” to present discussions around the Global Development Gateway, the World Bank is attempting to carve a niche for itself as the “Knowledge Bank.” In doing so it appears to have shifted from merely focusing on the transfer of capital. Instead, it seeks to be a leader in development expertise and knowledge transfers in international development. The paper examines the Bank’s conception of knowledge, the rise of knowledge enterprises at the Bank, and the various tensions in its knowledge discourses. It argues that the Bank’s knowledge agenda often tends to be centralized and absolutist and draws on economistic and technocratic models. These trends contribute to the emergence of a narrow knowledge agenda that both neglects sociocultural issues and those concerning a wider political economy. Thus, the plural nature of knowledge is denied and the Bank’s own problematic role in knowledge generation is not reflected upon.


Lyla Mehta

Professorial Fellow

Publication details

Mehta, L
Human Organization, volume 60, issue 2


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