Third World Concept Essay Research Paper

Third World Concept Essay, Research Paper

“Discuss Whether The Concept Of The ‘Third World’ Still Has Any Validity”.

Assignment. Essay A:

Firstly, in order to address this title, the term ‘Third World’ must first be defined in terms of it’s origin and meaning. The industrial revolution in the nineteenth century led to Western-Europe and the United States becoming increasingly technological, industrialised and urbanised. This brought rise to the concept of a divided world; those nations that were developed and those that were more ‘primitive’. The emergence of this concept of development led way for theories (which were generally accepted at the time) such as the development of nations happens in a linear process, and that to the benefit of more developed countries this process should be encouraged. Since then terminology has altered from descriptions such as ‘backward’ to ‘Underdeveloped’ to the present use of the phrase LEDC (Less Economically Developed Country). The group of LEDC’s in question have been also referred to as the ‘South’, from the commonly referred to Brandt Report (1980), or the Report of the Independent Commission on International Development Issues. This report stated that the ‘rich developed’ countries were located in the ‘north’, and that the ‘poor undeveloped’ or ‘developing’ countries were located in the ’south’. However, in this report the ‘North/South’ divide used in the Brandt Report will not be used, instead the use of the phrase ‘Third World’ will be used in its place. The phrase originally derives from France (’Tiers Monde’) in the 1950’s to describe the peasantry (the ‘Third Estate’) in pre-Revolutionary 1789 France. By the end of the 1960’s however this concept was used to help describe the division of the worlds three main economic and political powers. These generalisations were increasingly used during the peak of the cold war as a method of division between the capitalist countries, communist countries, and the non-aligned states. First there was the ‘First World’, which were the industrialised, capitalist free market economies. These included such countries as the United States of America, Australia and Western Europe. Then there was the ‘Second World’, which were the communist centrally planned economies such as the socialist Russian state and the Warsaw Pact. Then came the ‘Third World’, the countries which were still developing (in relation to the first and second worlds) and so were more deprived and disadvantaged.

It is extremely difficult to define and identify ‘Third World’ countries depending upon which criteria is being used as the basis of the development measurement, because not all countries are identical in their aspirations towards political and cultural goals which leads to a great diversity and range even within this one specified group. The different forms of development measurement for countries can be GNP (Gross National Produce) per capita per annum, population size, infant mortality rates per 1000 born, life expectancy, illiteracy rates, access to safe water, urban population and Debt to First World countries and international banks such as the World Bank. Examples of these large disparities can be seen by comparing two Third World countries such as China and Peru. The GNP per capita for China is $860 (US), while for Peru it is $2610. Both countries have a life expectancy of around 70 years old, yet while the population of Peru is around 24 million, China has one of 1227 million people. These marked disparities show the wide range of diversity between two countries which are generalised under the same category. This can make it difficult to define a Third World country because using these different measurement techniques, while a broad group of countries can be characterised by their low income and disadvantage in provision, not all countries are always included by these measures which makes it difficult to state the boundaries of the Third World.

It is because of several reasons that the validity of the phrase ‘The Third World’ has been placed into question over the past decade. The previously mentioned growing differentiation and diversification within the Third World has lead to the use of the generalisation of the concept to be questioned. Also, the rejection of a ‘linear path’ to development means that different countries will strive towards development through different courses at different speeds, and should not be measured against how the ‘West’ First World developed, presuming that all countries are in fact aspiring to be like Western countries such as the United States and Western-Europe, which they are certainly all not. Not only is there wide disparities between countries, but there can even be a larger variety within a single country. In these countries a very small minority can hold a large amount of capital and live extremely affluent lifestyles very similar to those of people in the First World, while the large majority of the population live in extreme or absolute poverty.

Another one of the strongest criticisms of the concept of the ‘Third World’ is that since the creation of this theory, the Second World (communist) countries have fallen (with the exception of the socialist Chinese state), which places the use of both the concepts of the Second World and subsequently the Third world into question as to whether they are any longer worthwhile generalisations.

However despite these arguments, although definitive boundaries cannot be made around the ‘Third World’ due to the wide regional and national disparities, I beleive that the generalisation of these countries into the single body of the ‘Third World’ is still a worthwhile concept. While the ‘Second World’ may no longer be a relevant factor, there is still the large rift present between the two groups of the First and Third Worlds, and so reinforces the continuing relevance of this concept.


Geography Of The Third World. Second Edition. 1996. Dickenson. J

Microsoft Encarta.

Oxford Encyclopaedia Unknown.

The Developing World: An Introduction. 1994. Simpson. E. S


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