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Modeling Institutional Change and Subject-Production: The World Bank's Turn to Stakeholder Participation

Abraham, Kavi Joseph (2022) 'Modeling Institutional Change and Subject-Production: The World Bank's Turn to Stakeholder Participation.', International Studies Quarterly, 66 (3).


There is a robust literature on the World Bank's shift toward participatory development in the 1990s but scant attention to the specific way in which participation was defined in terms of “stakeholder” inclusion. Rather than the poor, NGOs, or some other constituency, participation was framed in terms of stakeholders, or all affected parties. Thus, there are two related outcomes to explain: a shift in institutional practice and the formation of a novel subject of development governance. Drawing on pragmatist and object-oriented international relations, I develop a model of how institutions become objects of sustained and collective reflection, at once opening the possibility for institutional change and new political subjectivity. In the case of the Bank, I specifically argue that out of a period of crisis, actors inside and outside the Bank reflected on the problem of development, borrowing from past experiments with systems managerialism to define the contours of the problem and pose solutions. Using Bank documents, I show how the logic of systems managerialism helped define the problem of development in terms of complexity and pose stakeholder inclusion as an effective solution. The result was not only new practices but the articulation of the stakeholder as a novel political subject.

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Publisher statement:© The Author(s) (2022). Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the International Studies Association. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted reuse, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Date accepted:26 May 2022
Date deposited:02 August 2022
Date of first online publication:19 July 2022
Date first made open access:02 August 2022

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