We examine the recent debates about governance, focusing particularly on the World Bank and identify certain factors which have in recent years moved the Bank's thinking beyond narrowly economic notions of development. Our account is tentative and we suggest further avenues of research. We try to connect the Bank's thinking systematically with key features of liberal discourse and suggest that thiscan do much to illuminate practice. We illustrate this with a discussion of the growing relationship between the Bank and NGOs, to contribute to forms of analysis which go beyond the ideas vs. interests polarities that still inform so much of contemporary social and political theory.