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10 Conclusions Concluding the Example of the World Bank Can the World Bank Change? In this concluding chapter, I conclude the example of the World Bank and provide some reasonable summary and conclusion to the alternative philosophy of development assistance based on autonomy-respecting help. Communism, as it actually existed, was not an alternative to a modern industrial society but a proposed alternative route to industrialization (see Grif‹n 1989). The route to industrialization provided by the West in the post–World War II period was “development” as engineered by all the assistance and aid agencies of the last half century. Each side in this developmental cold war offered the Third World its blueprints for accelerating history and making a jump over the chasm to modernity. The communist path ignominiously failed. My reluctant conclusion is that the West’s development institutions are also a failed dream, albeit in a less obvious manner. Where there has been development, it has been more as a do-it-yourself project (e.g., in East Asia), not by following the best-practice nostrums of the agencies. Development cannot be externally social engineered by either the communist or the West’s blueprints. 240 After a half century on the path of of‹cial development assistance, we ‹nd ourselves lost, “wandering in a dark wood.” Development will not yield to social engineering no matter how much aid is provided. A fundamentally different philosophy of development assistance is needed than that implemented—regardless of the rhetoric—by the World Bank and the other major development agencies. Can the Bank change? Is it a matter of more enlightened leadership or is it a matter of structurally determined outcomes regardless of the leadership ? My conclusion is that it is not a problem of leadership. James Wolfensohn is as “enlightened” a president as the Bank has ever had—or is likely to have in the future. The problems are structural, not managerial. Structural Problem 1: Monopolistic Power If in fact development were the sort of thing that could be engineered, then there would be a good case to have a very powerful global development agency. But we have surveyed the theories of various types of assistance—helper-doer relationships—across the ‹elds of human endeavor, and we have found rather consistent results. Wherever the desired outcomes require sustainable changes in the actions and beliefs of the doers—unlike the “vaccination of children” model of assistance —then the engineering approach subtly fails to achieve thoroughgoing and long-lasting results.1 The externally sourced pressures of the direct engineering approach can only create the external show of results that provides a type of short-term pseudo-veri‹cation for the aid bureaucracies. Genuine internal change in the doers requires internally sourced motivation and active learning by the doers—all of which requires a fundamentally different approach on the part of the helpers. One problem lies in the imperatives of the organizations themselves. Individuals in large or small aid organizations need “to move money” and “to show results” for their bosses, sponsors, or donors. Hence the would-be helpers will try to take over, control, and own the interaction with the doers in order to deliver the desired results. The more powerful the helping organization, the more damaging is this organizational drive. It is not a matter of learning to behave differently since any “new strategies” or heroic individual efforts will soon be overwhelmed by the imperatives of organizational power. Smaller assistance organizations such as NGOs are subject to much the same dynamics but may cause less damage due to less power differential with the doers. Conclusions 241 On the whole, the conundrum of actually helping people help themselves is so basic and subtle that trying to get a large development agency to operate on that basis is akin to trying to get an elephant to dance or a gorilla to knit a sweater. Regardless of the rhetoric and the genuine good intentions, it is not going to happen. The alternative approach is based on respect for the own motivation and own powers of learning of the doers. Autonomy-respecting assistance essentially inverts the power dynamics between helper and doer. The more powerful and well-heeled is the helper, the less likely is the assistance to respect the autonomy of the doers. While I will catalogue a number of reasons why the World Bank cannot really implement autonomy-respecting assistance, let there be no doubt about the fundamental problem—the power of the...


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