This study is situated within an International Political Economy (IPE) approach and centres on an analysis of the World Bank’s ‘development knowledge’. This is a term used in the dissertation to describe the pool of knowledge and understanding linked to development which the World Bank produces. The study also incorporates a case study of the World Bank’s development partnership with South Africa, particularly through the 2008 - 2012 Country Partnership Strategy (CPS). The World Bank- South Africa partnership is characterised by a knowledge sharing approach.
Importantly, the study aims to provide an understanding of the ideology and norms that underpin the World Bank’s development knowledge. Reviewed literature points toward a preferred neo-liberal ideology of development knowledge in the Bank; this is the departure point for this study’s analysis. The study is based on two levels of analysis, examined through a critical theoretical framework and discourse analysis as a methodological tool. The first level of analysis considers the structural power dynamics in the international arena which influence the ideology of development knowledge in the Bank. This study categorises these power dynamics as internal and external levers of power. The former has more to do with the Bank’s financial clout and intellectual leadership, while the latter considers the influence of powerful states, particularly the United States of America (USA), over the production of development knowledge in the World Bank. The dissertation suggests that these levers of power establish the transmission mechanisms which diffuse the ideas of powerful actors into the development knowledge of the Bank, while limiting the influence of less powerful actors.
The second level of analysis, which is the South Africa case study, aims to ascertain the presence or lack of a ‘normative convergence’ on development ideals between the World Bank and South Africa. Normative convergence means shared or unified beliefs relating to how development is conceptualised between South Africa and the World Bank. The aim of this level of analysis is to identify how the presence or lack of normative convergence bears upon the efficacy of the Bank’s knowledge sharing approach in the case of South Africa. The study concludes that there is evidence which points to a neo-liberal paradigm of development within the World Bank and South Africa. A normative convergence on development ideals between the World Bank and South Africa thus exists.