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Is World Bank “Good Governance” Good for the Poor? Central American Experiences

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AbstractThis paper explores the World Bank’s concept of “good governance” as applied in rural Central America. It argues that World Bank good governance seeks to constrain unequal accumulation and privilege in the public sector, but leaves largely unaddressed structural inequalities in the private sector and the conflation of economic and political power in the public sector. This paper suggests that the World Bank analysis does not adequately consider more embedded state/civil society relations linked to national and sub-national political cultures. In contexts in which nation-building projects have promoted forms citizenship linked to more activist “leveling” and paternalistic states, good governance is likely to be ideologically contested. World Bank good governance under these circumstances is unlikely to quell discontent or naturalize the neoliberal state.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Sociology, Chapman University, One University Dr. Orange, CA 92866 USA, Email:, URL:


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