Third World definition - Wikipedia
Third World was a term originally used
to distinguish nations that neither aligned with the West nor
with the East during the Cold War, many were members of the Non-Aligned
Movement. Today, however, the term is used to denote nations with
the smallest UN Human Development Index (HDI) in the world, independent
of their political status. These countries are also known as the
Global South, developing countries, least developed countries
and the Majority World in academic circles.
Development workers also call them the two-thirds world and The
South. Some dislike the term developing countries as it implies
that economic development (industrialisation) is the only way
forward, while they believe it is not necessarily the most beneficial.
The term Third World is also disliked as it implies the false
notion that those countries are not a part of the global economic
system. Some note that the underdevelopment of Africa, Asia and
South America during the Cold War was influenced, or even caused
by most powerful nations of the time; these nations could largely
be divided into capitalist states in the west on the one hand,
and communist states in the east on the other.
Noting that some of these countries have been left behind by economic
globalization, some writers use the term Fourth World to refer
to the poorest of these countries, which lack industrial infrastructure
and the means to build it.
Many "third world" countries are located in Africa,
Latin America, and Asia. They are often nations that were colonized
by another nation in the past. The populations of third world
countries are generally very poor but with high birth rates. In
general they are not as industrialized or technologically advanced
as the first world. The majority of the countries in the world
fit this classification.
The term "third world" was coined by economist Alfred
Sauvy in an article in the French magazine L'Observateur of August
14, 1952. It was a deliberate reference to the "Third Estate"
of the French Revolution. Tiers monde means third world in French,
but in the sense of "one-third" -- it does not mean
"third in rank" (which would be troisieme monde). The
term gained widespread popularity during the Cold War when many
poorer nations adopted the category to describe themselves as
neither being aligned with NATO or the Warsaw Pact, but instead
composing a non-aligned "third world" (in this context,
the term "First World" was generally understood to mean
the United States and its allies in the Cold War, which would
have made the East bloc the "Second World" by default;
however, the latter term was very seldom actually used).
Leading members of this original "third world" movement
were Yugoslavia, India, and Egypt. Many third world countries
believed they could successfully court both the communist and
capitalist nations of the world, and develop key economic partnerships
without necessarily falling under their direct influence. In practice,
this plan did not work out quite so well; many third world nations
were exploited or undermined by the two superpowers who feared
these supposedly neutral nations were in danger of falling into
alignment with the enemy. After World War II, the First and Second
Worlds struggled to expand their respective spheres of influence
to the Third World. The militaries and intelligence services of
the United States and the Soviet Union worked both secretly and
overtly to influence Third World governments, with mixed success.
The dependency theory suggests that multinational corporations
and organizations such as the IMF and World Bank have contributed
to making third world countries dependent on first world countries
for economic survival. The theory states that this dependence
is self-maintaining because the economic systems tend to benefit
first world countries and corporations. Scholars also question
whether the idea of development is biased in favor of Western
thought. They debate whether population growth is a main source
of problems in the third world or if the problems are more complex
and thorny than that. Policy makers disagree on how much involvement
first world countries should have in the third world and whether
third world debts should be canceled.
The issues are complicated by the stereotypes of what third world
and first world countries are like. People in the first world,
for example, often describe third world countries as underdeveloped,
overpopulated, and oppressed. Third world people are sometimes
portrayed as uneducated, helpless, or backwards. Modern scholarship
has taken steps to make academic discourse more conscious of the
differences not only between the first world and the third world,
but also among the countries and people of each category.
During the Cold War there were a number of countries which did
not fit comfortably into the neat definition of First, Second,
and Third Worlds. These included Switzerland, Sweden, and the
Republic of Ireland, which chose to be neutral. Finland was under
the Soviet Union's sphere of influence but was not communist,
nor was it a member of the Warsaw Pact. Austria was under the
United States' sphere of influence, but in 1955, when the country
again became a fully independent republic, it did so under the
condition that it remained neutral. None of these countries would
have been defined as third world despite their non (or marginally)
With the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, the term Second World
largely fell out of use and the meaning of First World has become
extended to include all developed countries. By the end of the
Cold War, the term Third World had shifted in English from its
original meaning and became a synonym for infrastructure-poor
countries. The term "Fourth World" came to denote to
countries (such as Afghanistan) with almost no industrial infrastructure
to speak of, or as a synonym for "least developed countries",
as opposed to Third-World countries that are partially industrialized.
Heavily industrialized states that were formerly communist are
simply called "former communist countries.