If it isn’t a Third World Country, What is it?

Image: PCIJ

In modern times, the term, ‘third world country’ is becoming less, and less acceptable. This is coming from the progression of racial and economic awareness. To understand this debate, it is necessary to know the history of the topic.

In the beginning of the Cold War, the terms, ‘first, second, and third world’ (The Three Worlds Theory) were invented by the French demographer, Alfred Sauvy. The Cold War was fought between Capitalism and Communism. He declared the ‘first world’ to be countries fighting for Capitalism. The ‘second world’ was considered countries related to Communism (Soviet Union). The ‘third world’ was given to any country obtaining from fighting for either side. In 1952, Sauvy stated, “Three worlds, one planet”, saying that these three separate worlds could exist in one world in his article published in L’Observateur.

Now, the Cold War has ended leaving these words supposedly meaningless as Communism was conquered more than half of a century ago. Without the cold war, what do these terms mean? Now, these terms have new meanings. These are terms no longer related to Communism or Capitalism, but economic development.

An example of a first world country is America. America has a stable economy, a democratic society, and primarily happy citizens. America has allies and enemies not unlike any other superpower.

An example of a modern-day second world country is India. India has a stable, but smaller economy than America’s. India is not a very ‘influential’ nation, but it is a recognized nation.

A third world country is a country with little power and a small economy. One example of a third world country is The Democratic Republic of Congo. The Democratic Republic of Congo (DROC) has an unstable economy and a large amount of poverty. The DROC has little or no name recognition, a factor of a third world country.

If we know where to separate these countries, what is the problem to call them a ‘first, second or third world country’? Is it a derogatory term? What is an appropriate name for these groups of countries? Some say terms dividing these countries into separate worlds is discriminatory, but others say that these are only terms used to understand a country’s economy and representation. If it was proven that these terms are derogatory, then we must use a different name to understand this. The ones who claim that the Three World Theory is offensive say that we should be saying something along the lines of a ‘developing nation’ instead of a ‘third world country’.

Some people in the impoverished countries claim that using the Three World Theory is offensive; people like Vaibhav Bojh who says, “Being called a developing country gives me a chance to improve.” He hopes that one day India will go “a few steps beyond what developed countries have achieved.”

This shows that the term, ‘developing nation’ is a better phrase. ‘Developing nations’ seems a more agreeable phrase, until you hear the other side.

As Shose Kessi, a social psychologist at the University of Cape Town puts it, “I dislike the term ‘developing world’ because it assumes a hierarchy between countries. It paints a picture of Western societies as ideal but there are many social problems in these societies as well. It also perpetuates stereotypes about people who come from the so-called developing world as backward, lazy, ignorant, irresponsible.” She does make a good point showing how this term is separating two countries that both have problems. This term, in a sense could give an idea of the citizens in these ‘developing nations’ as too lazy to fully develop their economy. In short, she really dislikes the term.

Everybody knows that the First World isn’t better in every way. There are pockets of rural poverty and unemployment. They can have crime, sick citizens, and problems that could fall under the category of a Third World Country, but the difference still has to do with the country’s name recognition, exports, and imports.

If you look at developing nations more carefully, they are fully developed in some aspects. Many of the countries that we could refer to as ‘developing nation’ do not even have government safety nets because it is unnecessary. In those nations, people step forward to help each other when they need it. Mead Over, who studies the economics of health interventions at the Center for Global Development says, “People donate money at a funeral to help the bereaved family, or people receive gifts from a neighbor to pay the doctor in a time of family emergency.” In First World Countries, we often neglect this kind of hospitality. If so, how can we say that we have no faults and no problems? We must accept the fact that we have problems with hospitality and our sacrifice for others.

What could we call these countries? There will always be a name to classify these nations.

In Kenya, the Masai tribesmen say that the term, ‘developing country’ is a lovely phrase, but in their language, it would translate to, ‘countries that are growing,’ which they said apologetically that it was a bit long.
It is possible to form a term based on data. The World Health Organization categorizes countries as ‘low- and lower-middle-income countries,’ though at first glance, numbers is an objective way to group countries, though it should not be offensive because it is based solely on data. This way to categorize countries is abbreviated as ‘LMIC.’ They are sometimes split into two forms, ‘LICs and MICs,’ pronounced, ‘licks and micks.’

Politically incorrect, some use the term, ‘majority world.’ This term is invalid because 80% of the world lives on a salary of $10 / day or less according to World Bank statistics.

Days Olopade, a Nigerian-American reporter likes the terms ‘fat’ and ‘lean.’ The term ‘lean’ is referring to the little resources a start-up business has. She mentions that thinking of America’s economy as ‘fat’ is not too difficult. She calls it her way to be provocative. An op-ed in the New York Times written by Olopade read “lean economies have a distinct advantage.”

Everybody mentioned agrees that each term has problems. They all agree that it is best to be as specific as possible.

Quotes Source: NPR

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