Same shit, different century : the World Bank, imperialism, and health.

Date of Award


Document Type



College of Liberal Arts

Degree Name

Bachelor in Arts


This thesis examines the World Bank's role as an enforcer of Western imperialism and its subsequent direct and indirect effects on health. As shown through world systems theory and critical medical anthropological theory, the World Bank reiterates colonial power dynamics and pre-existing inequalities. By uncritically promoting neoliberal globalization and restricting the agency of developing countries, the World Bank perpetuates imperialism and is frequently detrimental to health. Despite claiming to have moved beyond its structural adjustment framework and into a more holistic and participatory understanding of development, the World Bank has actually changed very little and continues to ignore the structural and historical forces that undermine health in the developing world. In ignoring this, the World Bank itself undermines health in a variety of ways which stem from its myopic enforcement of neoliberal dogma and an ultimate lack of understanding as to the role of Western imperialism in creating the current, unequal world system. Importantly, the World Bank and uncritical neoliberal globalization increase inequality within and between countries, thereby perpetuating structural violence, or the systematic oppression of the poor and powerless. Structural violence is the ultimate cause of many diseases and can be understood as the embodiment of inequality. When the World Bank coercively forces countries to comply with its neoliberal agenda, as it has and continues to do, it is ultimately increasing inequalities that originate with exploitative European colonialism and manifest themselves in the health and bodies of the poor.