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The Washington Consensus Meets the Global Backlash

By Robin Broad

GRCA Publication


During the final two decades of the twentieth century, development theory and practice were dominated by a neoliberal ‘Washington Consensus’. This article analyzes the shifting debate over that Consensus. The article focuses on the current ‘elite’ debate about the Consensus in an attempt to gauge the extent of change. It does so by coding primary research materials according to specific Consensus tenets to analyze (1) the individual and collective positions of several prominent, elite actors termed the ‘break-aways’; and (2) the editorial positions of leading publications that serve as key, elite ‘voices’. Washington Consensus tenets are broken into five categories: trade liberalization, deregulation, privatization, financial liberalization and debt-crisis management. This analysis of primary texts leads to the Conclusion that the ‘Washington Consensus’ no longer prevails as an elite northern Consensus, and we are presently not only in a period of debate, but in the midst of a paradigm shift.

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