In 1952 Alfred Sauvy, a French demographer, coined the term Third World which he described as the people of the world that are "unknown, exploited, and scorned." In pre-revolutionary France, the first two estates were the nobility and the clergy; everybody else was the third estate. He joked that the capitalist world (First World) compared with the nobility and the communist world (Second World) with the clergy. The First World consists of wealthy capitalist, formerly industrial, countries and the Second World of the former communist and industrial countries. Third World countries are all the other countries and they have always included capitalist (e.g., Brazil) and communist (e.g., Cuba) countries, and very rich (e.g., Saudi Arabia) and very poor (e.g., Mali) countries. Click on the map to see two others that clearly identify the Majority World, where most of the world's population live.
|Net Foreign |
Another way of looking at this three-world classification is to compare the percentage of the world's population with the percentage of net foreign investments, as shown in the table. Source: New Internationalist, 334, May 2001.
The USA government's foreign policies and subsequent military actions illustrate yet another way of looking at First World hegemony: Which countries has the USA bombed since 1945?
In this introductory course we do not have sufficient time to examine the diverse and complex nature of each of the major world regions. After this course you can learna more bytaking other geography courses, readng books, and traveling on your own.
| Income inequality is enormous in all regions of the Third
-- see the graph on the left.
According to the United Nations, the assets of the world's three top billionaires exceed the combined gross domestic product of all of the world's poorest countries and their 600 million inhabitants. Without precise figures for the growth of poverty during the 1990s, the World Bank estimates that about 30 percent of the world's population today lives on less than $1 a day. The graph on the right shows that from 1981 to 2001 poverty rates declined rapidly in East Asia, particularly in China; decreased a bit in South Asia; and increased in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Many researchers also recognize a Fourth World, which consists of nations (cultural entities) of indigenous peoples living within or across state boundaries (political units). When 168 states assert the right and power to impose sovereignty and allegiance upon more than 3000 nations, conflicts of various kinds (e.g. political protests, armed struggle) result. Many of the conflicts within the last twenty years have occurred in the Fourth World.
R ead Anthony Hall's The American Empire and The Fourth World (McGill-Queen's University Press, 2004).
C heck-out the Third World Traveler for quotes, articles, and relevant links.
Since the collapse of communism by 1990, Second World countries remain distinctive but in ways different than before.
Read more below:
|Even Africa, the poorest region in the world, had GNP increases of over two percent! In terms of purchasing-power parity, Russia and Poland in 1994, for example, were equal to Brazil; the Czech Republic to Venezuela. Russia, with 29 times as many people, has a government budget the same size as Finland's! In other words, the Second World is the only region of the world in which highly industrialized countries have reverted backwards to Third World standards! A joke told in Russia: "What has one year of capitalism done that 70 years of communism did not do? Make communism look good."|
|The military alliance of NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization), including the USA, Canada, and most Western European countries, recently expanded eastward: three new members (Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic) in 1997. This enlargement will cost $125 billion over the next 13 years, with the USA paying only $19 billion and the other $106 billion (85%) will be paid by these new members. At a time of large-scale unemployment and cuts in social budgets in Eastern Europe, these new NATO expenses will lower living standards even more. Hungary will increase its military spending by 35 percent; Poland and Czech by 20 percent! Entering NATO also requires members to buy western weapons, mostly from the USA -- one fighter jet costs $2 billion alone.|
|Many labels have been
suggested to classify the world's countries -- often tongue-in-cheek:
Based on Donald Rumsfeld's (former U.S. Secretary of Defense) terminology concerning the U.S. occupation of Iraq, here is a new classification of the world's countries: