Jim Yong Kim’s Mixed Messages to the World Bank and the World

Image by Nathaniel St. Clair

Johannesburg.

World Bank president Jim Kim is an ex-leftist who claims that in the mid-1990s he wanted to shut down the Bank. At the time, it was an entirely valid, realistic goal of the 50 Years is Enough! Campaign and especially the World Bank Bonds Boycott. Kim’s co-edited Dying for Growth (2000) book-length analysis of the Bank’s attacks on Global-South public health offered very useful ammunition.

However, not only did Kim subsequently make an ideological U-turn, as we see below, but more importantly, among the casualties of the 9/11 attacks were many such movement-building efforts aimed at a common international enemy. The global justice scene faded quickly as a result of new divisions between social activists and U.S. labor patriots, the shift by internationalists into anti-war mobilizing, and the ascendance of NGO-led World Social Forum talk-shopping. Other more hopeful recent leftist waves also ebbed: Latin America’s Pink Tide and 2011’s Occupy moment in many sites across the world. Perhaps the recent revival of social-democratic politics in the two core (Anglo-American) sites of neoliberalism will make this post-2001 lapse appear as an only temporary setback.

If so, one inevitable site to identify neoliberalism’s coldest logic – and sometimes most brute-force muscles – is the World Bank, an institution often engaged in self-delegitimization. So if activists across the globe do not currently have a central site of…

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