Third World

Third World

Summary of Third World

That group of less developed and developing nations not included in the political camps of either the Western industrialized states or the communist bloc. Most nations in Latin America, Africa, and Asia fall into this category. The term is commonly applied to nations with a per capita income under one thousand dollars. A distinction is sometimes made between the Third World generally and the so-called Fourth World, defined as those nations having a per capita income under three hundred dollars. See First World, Second World.

(Main Author: William J. Miller)

Introduction to Third World

Third World, general designation of economically developing nations. The term arose during the cold war, when two opposing blocs-one led by the United States (first), the other led by the USSR (second)-appeared to dominate world politics. Within this bipolar model, the Third World consisted of economically and technologically less developed countries belonging to neither bloc. Originated by the Martinique-born Marxist writer Frantz Fanon, the designation was essentially negative and not always accepted by the countries concerned. Although political and economic upheavals in the late 1980s and early 1990s marked the collapse of the Soviet power bloc, “Third World” remains a useful label for a conglomeration of countries otherwise difficult to categorize.

The countries of the Third World, containing some two-thirds of the world’s population, are located in Latin America, Africa, and Asia. Politically, they are generally nonaligned (see Nonaligned Movement). Some are moving out of their previous situation and may soon join the ranks of industrialized countries. Others, with economies considered intrinsically incapable of development, are at times lumped together as forming a “fourth world.”

Political instability caused by precarious economic situations is widespread in the Third World. Democracy in the Western meaning of the term is almost completely absent. Both the Western and the former Soviet blocs have tried to entice the Third World to follow their own examples, but the countries concerned generally prefer to create their own institutions based on indigenous traditions, needs, and aspirations; most choose pragmatism over ideology. It is debated whether China is part of the Third World, with which it once identified itself on racial, cultural, and developmental grounds, proclaiming that the exploited countries should unite against imperialist forces, both Western and Soviet. After the death of Mao Zedong (Mao Tse-tung) in 1976, however, the Chinese attitude moderated.

The Third World displays little homogeneity; it is divided by race, religion, culture, and geography, as well as frequently opposite interests. It generally sees world politics in terms of a global struggle between rich and poor countries-the industrialized North against the backward South. Some nations, such as those of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), have found ways to assert their economic importance as sources of raw materials indispensable to advanced societies, and others may follow suit. Widely advocated within the Third World is a so-called New Economic Order, which through a combination of aid and trade agreements would transfer wealth from the developed to the developing nations.” (1)

Concept of Third World

An introductory definition of Third World is provided here: A term widely used in the past to refer to those nations not aligned with the U.S. or the Soviet Union during the Cold War era. The term also, independent from the U.S./Soviet engagement during the Cold War, is used to refer to poor nations, and is sometimes used with the terms “developing” or “underdeveloped” nations.

Concept of Third World

Note: explore also the meaning of this legal term in the American Ecyclopedia of Law.

Third World

Embracing mainstream international law, this section on third world explores the context, history and effect of the area of the law covered here.

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See Also

  • Foreign Affairs
  • National Defense

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See Also

  • Foregin Policy
  • Foreign Affairs

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See Also

  • Legal System
  • Country
  • Jurisdiction
  • Immigration
  • Consulate

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Further Reading

  • The entry “third world” in the Parry and Grant Encyclopaedic Dictionary of International Law (currently, the Encyclopaedic Dictionary of International Law, 2009), Oxford University Press

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Notes and References

Guide to Third World

Third World and the GATT Policy Negotiations

In relation to the GATT Policy Negotiations, Christopher Mark (1993) provided the following explanation and/or definition of Third World: The term originated during the Cold War, when it was applied to countries that belonged neither to the Western industrialized countries (the “First World”) nor to the Communist bloc (the “Second World”).

Third World and International Trade

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See Also

developing countries