A thematic examination of the IMF and the World Bank's recent crisis programmes finds strong evidence of prescriptive continuity with the pre-crisis repertoire of these organizations, contradicting their legacy of policy adaptation during times of systemic turbulence. How are we to account for this anomaly? The current specialist literature on the Fund and Bank offers plausible explanations, mainly by stressing principal–agent relations and intra-organizational dynamics. Yet these lender-oriented approaches need to be complemented by looking at the demand side of the lending relationship as well, that is, by focusing on the Fund and Bank's borrowers. Of particular relevance is the growing diversification of development trajectories in the South, which creates strong disincentives against paradigm recalibration. The article highlights the analytic potential of one vital dimension of this diversification: the shrinking common ground of macroeconomic failure in large emerging economies, illustrated here in a brief comparison of Mexico, Thailand and Turkey.