The phrase Third World originates from the period of the cold war as a way of identifying countries that did not support NATO or the Soviet Union. Therefore, Third World countries did not buy the ideologies of either capitalism or communism. During that time, the countries that supported NATO and their capitalism were referred to as the First World. However, states that aligned with the Soviet Union and accepted communism were termed as Second World (Wright, 2015). Precisely, countries that failed to align with either the United States or the Soviet Union during the cold war were Third World. At that time the United States formed part of the First World Members while Russia formed part of the Second World countries. However, the collapse of the Soviet Union made the term Third World to be open for other interpretations (Latham, 2014).
Limitations of the Third World as an Analytical Category
Analytically, categorizing the world into first, second and third, based on their alienation to their support to communism or capitalism idealism does not make sense. Therefore, it puts cold war way of thinking to be less reliable (Wright, 2015). Currently, the world is more diverse in terms of culture, level of economic growth, and political maturity. Moreover, the cold war is now over and the categorization of the world as First, Second, and third based on the cold war parameters is obsolete (Muni, 2016). The limitation of the term following the end of the cold war resulted in the formation of another meaning of the word Third World. Currently, economic development is the main parameter used to define Third World countries. Members of the Third World countries have poorly developed economies. Besides, they contribute the most significant number of the world's population and suffer from political instability. Moreover, Third World countries have high rates of illiteracy and population growth with weak healthcare systems (Latham, 2014).
Position of the Third World Countries after World War II
Immediately after the end of the Second World War, a number of the third world countries attained their independence. The Third World countries blamed their colonial rulers to have perpetrated low standards of living to their people. Therefore, the Third World countries prioritize economic development as a means of attaining full independence. It is worth noting that the majority of freedom movements focus on economic growth (Katarina, 2017). Therefore, the leaders made it upon themselves to achieve economic growth at all cost as a way of avoiding embarrassments of failure at the eyes of their former colonial rulers. Most of the Third World countries blamed colonialism as the main reason behind their weak economic growth. However, to date, most of the Third World countries apart from some few Latin American countries have failed to achieve economic growth because of poor governance and bad economic policies (Katarina, 2017).
United Nation and the Rise of the Third World
Towards the end of the 1940s, the ex-colonies such as India, Egypt, and Pakistan used the United Nations forum to bring end colonialism and economic equality among the countries. However, it was until the year 1955 during the United Nation Bandung conference in Indonesia where the term Third World received the formal endorsement. At the same meeting, China officially describes herself as a third world country as a sign of solidarity with the other Third World countries (Wright, 2015). From that point, the world was divided into two based on their economic development. Therefore, the world was divided into developed and developing countries. The United Nations through the Nonaligned Movement (NAM) laid ground to bridge the economic disparity between developed and the developing countries (Wright, 2015).
Transformation of the Third World
Following the platform laid by the United Nations, Third World nations went through different transformations in terms of integrations, diversity, and divisions. Some of the Third World countries formed trading blocs to boost their economic growth and reduce the influence of the developing countries (Wright, 2015). However, not all Third World countries operated in the same trading blocs. Instead, they formed regional trading blocs based on their geographical locations. Besides, Third World countries also experienced some level of political uncertainties and instabilities that affected their overall economic growth. It explains why the majority of the Third World countries has suffered a long period of economic underdevelopment (Wright, 2015).
Summary of the Third World in the Post-Cold War International System
The phrase the third world is commonly used to refer to the developing nations. They include Asian countries except for China, Latin American countries, and African countries. One characteristic of Third World countries is their inability to sustain their economies. Moreover, Third World countries can only produce a few primary goods but rely on both the Second and the Third World countries for processed products. It means that the Third World countries sell their cheap primary materials to the industrialized countries but buy expensive heavy industrial equipment and highly technical products from the same industrialized countries (Wright, 2015). Therefore, the unbalanced economic arrangement makes the Third World countries to experience a high level of debt load. Besides, Third World countries experience both high birth rates and high motility rates. Furthermore, they also have a low level of economic growth and faces most of the humanitarian issues such as poverty. They also experience inadequate political systems (Muni, 2016).
Katarina, W. A. (2017). Third World Status after World War II. Max Planck Encyclopedia of Public International Law, 2(1).
Latham, M. E. (2014). The Cold War in the Third World, 1963-1975. The Cambridge History of the Cold War, 3(1), 258-280.
Muni, S. D. (2016). The third world: Concept and controversy. Third World Quarterly, 1(3), 119 128.
Wright, J. D. (2015). International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences (2nd ed.). Amsterdam, Netherlands: Elsevier Science.
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