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Imperial Nature: The World Bank and Struggles for Social Justice in the Age of Globalization (Yale Agrarian Studies Series) Hardcover – July 10, 2005


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Product Details

  • Series: Yale Agrarian Studies Series
  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; First Edition edition (July 10, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300104081
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300104080
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 5.8 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,304,763 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This probing study of the World Bank examines not its brute financial muscle but its "hegemony"-the rhetorical strategies, training programs and patronage networks that let the Bank frame debate and cajole even critics into endorsing its agenda. Sociologist Goldman focuses on what he calls the Bank's "green neoliberalism," a fashionable development ideology that packages poor nations' public services, natural resources and environmental diversity as undervalued economic assets to be profitably managed and conserved through the market. He explores this creed through interviews with Bank employees and onsite studies of Bank-financed projects, looking at the Bank's Policy Research Department, a project in Laos that links construction of hydroelectric dams with the set-aside of nature preserves, and an ambitious initiative to privatize water utilities. Goldman levels a biting but nuanced account of the Bank's dubious scientific studies, its cooptation of environmentalists and the "neocolonialism" of its new enthusiasm for pristine eco-tourism zones that are often as disruptive to traditional communities as old-style development. Unfortunately, he overlays it with a great deal of dense theory, heavily indebted to Gramsci and Foucault, about "power/knowledge regimes," adding little insight but lots of jargon. That's a shame, since this clumsy rhetorical strategy partly obscures an excellent critique of the Bank's inner workings and external image-making. Photos.
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Review

“Michael Goldman’s brilliant book will be widely read, admired, and quoted. Many ships will sail in its wake.”—James C. Scott, Yale University


"In this compelling book, Michael Goldman offers powerful new insights into how the World Bank has emerged as one of the most important sites of knowledge production in the world today. Yet by chronicling the practices and processes through which such knowledges become authoritative—and how they shift under pressure—the book also contributes to the possibilities for more politically enabling alternatives."—Gillian Hart, University of California at Berkeley and author of Disabling Globalization: Places of Power in Post-Apartheid South Africa  
(Gillian Hart)

“Michael Goldman’s brilliant book will be widely read, admired, and quoted. Many ships will sail in its wake.”—James C. Scott, Yale University


"Simply the best analysis we have of an imperial, hegemonic institution ‘at work’: in this case, the World Bank at work containing, colonizing, co-oping and reformulating environmentalism. Imperial Nature is well-argued, ethnographically subtle, and historically deep. Goldman’s work will be the indispensable point of departure for all subsequent work on ‘green’ neo-liberalism."—James C. Scott, Yale University 
(James C. Scott)

"We have grown accustomed to indictments of the World Bank for the devastation it has wrought, but Goldman goes several steps further. Opening up the Bank and its projects to the ethnographic eye he shows not only how environmental catastrophes occur but also how the Bank responds to those catastrophes with an ever more insidious regulation, by creating new knowledges, absorbing opposition, and refabricating states—all in the name of protecting the environment. Grassroots opposition may mount but the Bank's overarching hegemony is strengthened. A must-read for anyone interested in the role of global agencies in development."—Michael Burawoy, University of California, Berkeley
(Michael Burawoy)

"Highly original and insightful, Goldman reveals how countries are pushed backwards instead of forwards in the name of  'development.'"—Naomi Klein, author of No Logo

 
(Naomi Klein)



"Imperial Nature offers novel insights into the Bank’s methods of valuing nature and orchestrating technologies of governance to legitimize its development regime. Rich case studies, interwoven with intriguing biographies of developers and resisters, ground this engaging account of the Bank’s unrivalled, and yet always fragile, power to produce and monopolize development knowledge."—Philip McMichael, Cornell University 









(Philip McMichael)

"Anyone puzzled by why globalization is increasing poverty and destitution in poor countries should read Imperial Nature. Through detailed research Goldman shows how the secretive unaccountable workings of the World Bank aimed only at increasing its own profits and the corporations it serves are killing ecological and economic democracy and dispossessing the poor of their resources and rights."—Vandana Shiva, author of Earth Democracy

(Vandana Shiva)

"[A] scholarly, incisive and damning study of the Bank."—David Moore, Journal of Agrarian Change
(David Moore Journal of Agrarian Change 2006-09-20)

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Customer Reviews

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Daneo on May 29, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Michael Goldman's Imperial Nature provides a compelling account of the ongoing struggles between the World Bank and its borrowers. It is unbiased in analyzing World Bank activities and their effects on the global South. The Bank's financial support for various projects merits applause from authoritative figures in diverse intellectual fields. However, its dealings in implementing policies stemming from this support can be viewed as less than wholesome. Goldman provides a good deal of history behind this, from American involvement in 19th century world development to the creation and expansion of the World Bank in the mid-twentieth century.

Goldman describes Robert McNamara's reign as a period of change for the World Bank. It was made both highly efficient and hegemonic. The efficiency factor allowed the World Bank to accrue funding from many international sources, and complete projects within short time spans. However, this same efficiency set the standard for future projects- that those researchers who wanted project funding and promotions would abide by bank rules. Important information involving local peoples would be excluded, adding to the bank's increasing hegemony. Negative consequences for the environment would also be ignored, so long as a neoliberal agenda for development was promoted.

The World Bank wields enormous power over the global South, as many national governments rely on it for economic prosperity. It has no system of checks and balances, nor is there another entity fit to replace it. As Goldman states, "A few well timed political victories could send tidal waves through the international financial system and create many new opportunities for social movements to create alternative structures." Thus we are left with the question: is there an alternative to promote economic development while maintaining environmental and social sustainability?
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Marissa Knodel on May 30, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Michael Goldman's Imperial Nature presents a well-grounded, in-depth analysis of the structure, formation, and implementation of World Bank development policies and the political, economic, social, and environmental ramifications for those who seek to benefit from them. The time Michael Goldman spent researching and working within the World Bank itself provides the reader with a critique that is well-informed and thorough as it brings together anecdotes and arguments from those working within and outside the World Bank. Throughout the book, Goldman emphasizes the complexity of the process of development and how one of the World Bank's primary flaws is its simple measurement of increase in yields or gross domestic product (GDP) as adequate assessments of development progress. The combination of this neoliberalism, promoted by the finance ministry, and civil society's pressure to be more socially just and environmentally sustainable has created a new developmental doctrine, what Goldman calls "green neoliberalism." The central tenet of green neoliberalism, environmentally sustainable development in combination with export-led capitalist growth, has allowed the World Bank to spread its influence and hegemony throughout the globe, primarily due to its efficacy in producing systems of knowledge and ideas that have since become the framework for development policies. Goldman traces the history of the World Bank from its first inception after World War II to the present day, noting how its "development for the poor" through providing financial loans more frequently benefits the Northern corporate investors and firms from which the World Bank borrows its money rather than the poor who really need it.Read more ›
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By J. Santopadre on May 30, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Michael Goldman's Imperial Nature provides a concrete basis for the understanding of the World Bank's infrastructure and policies. Not only does Goldman explain how the World Bank functions, but he gives specific examples of projects from around the world such as the Nam Theun 2 dam in Laos. Goldman attempts to explain how the bank achieves its powerful status and remains a dominant structure worldwide. A passage reads, "From this perspective, the World Bank functions by borrowing capital from a global bond market (that it helped to create), lending it to governments that are deemed in need, and then requiring these governments to spend a substantial percentage of these loans to procure goods and services from firms of the Big Five creditor countries" (Goldman 155). Previously unaware of the World Bank's actual workings, passages like these opened our eyes to a somewhat startling power relationship the World Bank attains with underdeveloped nations. Although the World Bank is portrayed as a dominant "bully" in a way, they are a money lending institution similar to other businesses around the globe.

For somebody who has hardly any previous knowledge regarding the World Bank and its operations, this book will give you the basic understanding of how it works. For somebody who understands the inner-workings of the dominant World Bank, this book might seem monotonous and vaguely informative. But overall, the book is fairly entertaining and revealing.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By J. Fleisher on May 30, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Michael Goldman's Imperial Nature is not the page-turner of Stiglitz's Globalization and it's Discontents. That isn't - necessarily - a criticism; Goldman's work is significantly more academic, and involves a fairly comprehensive history of the World Bank and an in depth case study. Unfortunately, the criticisms that Goldman levies are not based on systematic analysis but on anecdotal arguments. Which can only be overlooked in light of the fact that the approach he took was one of immersion, not of external analysis. This forces Goldman, seemingly, to walk a fine-line of making generalized criticisms from relatively specific and isolated information. Given the limitations of his approach, however, the book does a surprisingly good job of pointing out the structural problems that are hindering the World Bank's performance, and, furthermore, it addresses these issues with a much more convincing, open-minded and balanced approach than much of the polemical arguments that claim the World Bank is Satan and starving little children.

One particularly interesting element of Goldman's book is his examination of the World Bank's dominate role "[a]s a producer of scientific knowledge," (Goldman, p. 101). This less frequently heard criticism of the bank is well, if anecdotally, discussed in Imperial Nature. In chapter 3, Goldman addresses the Bank's institutional impediments to creating unbiased information. By examining the organizational structure limitations, skewed staff incentives, top-down internal political limitations, and time constraints, Goldman makes a fairly compelling case that there are serious structural problems that can bias the Banks panoply of research.
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