World Bank's adjustment lending policy, 1980-1989: Towards understanding the socio-political dimensions of adjustment
The World Bank's policy of structural adjustment was analyzed to test the utility of a qualitative technique, textual analysis, for assessing the coherence of the formulation and implementation of public policy. This treatise provides an approach for examining the various components of an articulated policy. It especially evaluates the coherence of the socio-political themes as they were reflected within selected official internal documents issued by the Bank during the years 1980-1989, to examine the Bank's policy and general approach as it was exhibited towards the regions of Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean. The adopted methodology, based upon the sociology of knowledge, developed a cognitively based system for coding verbal protocols or social knowledge (meanings, perceptions, and biases). In practice, the methodology transforms textual information into a set of conceptual maps through the use of computer-assisted techniques. The methodology related social (geographical proximity) with cognitive (Bank loan agreement) data at multiple points in time. The maps were then combined to demonstrate differences and similarities within their shared knowledge. Some of the resulting conclusions were that the World Bank's policy has changed over time and its ideological framework has shifted from an emphasis on basic needs, (1980-1985) and to the encouraging of efficiency and acknowledgement to a reduction of the social costs of adjustment and assistance to vulnerable groups (1985-1989). Attention to individual country political systems, their environment, and their ability to absorb the "shock" and timeliness of the policy's implementation has increased over time; this was reflected within the Bank's efforts to incorporate the input of governments within the process of adjustment, especially in the latter part of the decade. Also, the policy varied as a function of its targeted regions of implementation, yet countries within each region were treated uniquely. When the technique is employed in conjunction with quantitative data, such as demographic changes, it can be used to explore potential changes within a country or region through the use of computer simulation. The general approach of data collection, data structuring, and information activity and analysis produced a toolkit for conducting cost-effective and highly valid analyses of qualitative social research.