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Ideas, institutions and the World Bank: the social protection and fragile states agendas

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JournalGlobal Policy
DateAccepted/In press - 24 Sep 2019
DateE-pub ahead of print - 14 Oct 2019
DatePublished (current) - 28 Feb 2020
Issue number1
Number of pages10
Pages (from-to)26-35
Early online date14/10/19
Original languageEnglish


Ideas and institutions are frequently used as explanatory concepts regarding policy development and change. There is an on-going debate as to the explanatory weight that each should be afforded; Weiss and Carayannis (2001) identify a spectrum of opinions, with ‘institutionalist’ approaches that embed ideas within institutionalist frameworks at one end, and ‘constructivist’ approaches which argue that ideational concepts should be dis-embedded from institutional considerations at the other. Drawing on 43 interviews with senior World Bank staff and a documentary analysis, this paper traces two policy agendas – social protection and fragile states – to identify the institutional and ideational features of the World Bank that a developmental agenda must navigate to achieve prominence in the Bank’s work. It finds that the success of a policy agenda is determined by whether the ideas fit with a macro-ideational dominant paradigm, and identifies several institutional features such as the incentive structure and lending mechanisms that influence an agenda’s success.

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© 2019 University of Durham and John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. This is an author-produced version of the published paper. Uploaded in accordance with the publisher’s self-archiving policy. Further copying may not be permitted; contact the publisher for details.

    Research areas

  • World Bank, Institutions, ideas, social protection, fragile states

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