Does the notion of a ”Third World” continue to have any validity in today’s world?
Author David Hiskey suggests that ‘a Third World country is not a country that simply is primitive, underdeveloped, or poor, as most people think. In fact, a third world country is actually just a country that is not considered a capitalist country (first world) and not considered a communist country (2nd world).'[2] With the communist bloc having disappeared after World War II and the world being mostly capitalist today, does the notion of a ”Third World” continue to have any validity in today’s world?
In a first part, we will be discussing why the concept of ”Third World Countries” continues to exist today.
And in a second part, we will be discussing how this notion has deviated from its origins enough to cease to be valid in our contemporary world.

The existence of the notion of a ”Third World” can be valid because it is synonym of the Global South and all it represents in the global North/South division. The notion incorporates diverse countries with similar developmental and wealth states that need to find more or less communal solutions and formulas in order to eradicate their problems. Specifically, ‘the underdevelopment of the third world is marked by a number of common traits; distorted and highly dependent economies devoted to producing primary products for the developed world and to provide markets for their finished goods; traditional, rural social structures; high population growth; and widespread poverty.'[3]
The reason for the similarities between countries from Africa, Asia and Latin America is linked to colonial conquest or indirect politico-economic domination by the more developed capitalist countries. Theorists believe that the main consequence of Western domination of global economics and politics since the colonial era is the creation of organised global market systems that serve their needs before anything.
Gerard Chaliand argues that ‘by setting up throughout the third world sub-economies linked to the West, and by introducing other modern institutions, industrial capitalism disrupted traditional economies and, indeed, societies. This disruption led to underdevelopment.'[3]
Some theorists believe that aside from the overexploitation of the colonies’ resources during the colonial era, even the positive outcomes of colonialism like the building of infrastructures for example, were primarily to benefit the dominant country’s economic needs. This can be plausible because it primarily resulted in cultivation of plantation crops and creation of mining activities that were usually all controlled by foreign economic powers. This created the current conditions of debatable imposed Specialization and the Division of Labour that affect Third World countries.
Also, the Dependency Theory would suggest that all Third World countries are being manipulated by Western powers, which occurs for example, through unequal trade exchange and high-interest rates on loans. In fact, ‘weak industrialization, trade deficit and foreign debt accumulation are common economic features between Third World countries.'[1]
On a brighter note, many of these ”Third World” countries are experiencing rapid economic growth especially those who produce and export oil such as Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Algeria, Libya, Nigeria, Gabon, Oman and the United Arab Emirates as well as non-oil-producing countries such as Singapore, Brazil, South Korea, Taiwan, and the Ivory Coast.
Also one of the main arguments that Western ‘developed’ countries would use to justify the concept behind the Third World is that many, if not the majority, of the group’s members sport political and social structures that are based on non-democratic, corrupt and authoritarian models. These include but are not limited to; Russia, China and most African countries according to the Economist Intelligence Unit Democracy Index Map of 2012.[4]
Also, some countries, namely China for example, choose to stay hidden inside this ”Third World” category in order to avoid international commitments that can be costly for and may slow down their development. These can be ecological, such as the Kyoto Protocol or social such as Human Rights commitments.
Political movements such as Maoism or Third Worldism which are ‘political, intellectual and revolutionary movement which brings a number of countries together into a unifying force. It rejects the dogmas & preconditions of the past and replaces them with new ones.’ [7] In other words, these movements fight for the cooperation of Third World countries against the influence and domination of imperialist First World countries and argue that the principle of non-interference in another country’s domestic affairs needs to be abolished. [6]
Therefore, the ‘Third World’ as a group can be seen as valid today because many of its countries share three main common conditions, economic dependency to the countries of the Global North, comparable economic growth in recent decades and deficient political structures.
However, the current widely accepted definition of the ”Third World” as a group of underdeveloped countries can be seen as irrelevant in contemporary global context because there is much disparity in terms of economic development and democratisation between the members of this group.
There is a common misconception that the ‘third world’ refers to countries that are poor and underdeveloped. In reality, there are many Third World countries that are developed, some are even amongst the wealthiest countries in the world. The reason being that during the Cold War, the Third World meant a group of non-aligned countries, many had weak economies due to a lack of industrialization, which led to it having a negative connotation.
However, there is rapidly increasing divergence in the Third World, particularly regarding economic growth where several countries from South and South-East Asia as well Mexico and Brazil and oil-producing countries like Saudi Arabia among others, have seen exceptional prosperity in the last few decades while others in Sub-Saharan Africa for example, continue to submerge in poverty and underdevelopment.
The issue with generalising the Third World and placing diverse countries in the same category is that they have to sport somewhat equal states of wealth, development and political stability.
However, a lot of disparity exists between the members of the Third World apart from their social and cultural differences. According to the CIA World Factbook, it seems almost absurd to join Libya whose real growth rate was around -5.10% between 2012 and 2013 with China whose real growth rate was 7.70% between 2012 and 2013 in a common category, the Third World. Similarly, both the Democratic Republic of Congo with a GDP per capita worth 400 US dollars in 2013 and Kuwait with a GDP per capita worth 42,100 US dollars in 2013, are Third World countries. This sort of disparity can also be seen from a developmental point of view; Chile and Chad both are considered Third World countries, however the former has a life expectancy of around 78 years in 2014 and around 3,276,000 active telephone lines while the latter has a life expectancy of around 49 years and around 29,000 telephone lines in use. [5]
It seems when taking numerous different factors including economical, social, demographic, and developmental states into consideration when judging the homogeneity of the Third Word, it seems that there is virtually none. Some Third World countries actually surpass their ‘more develped’ counterparts in terms of economic growth and death rates.
For example, the United States has a death rate of 8.15% in 2014 while a ‘Third World’ country like Kuwait had a death rate of only 2.16% in 2014. Similarly, the United States saw an annual real grwoth rate of 1.60% in 2013 while South Sudan saw an annual real growth rate of 24.70% in 2013. [5]
Development is the process by which a country betters its economic, social and political states through reforms. Reaching a state of perfect development is the unobtainable ideal, also known as an utopia. However, not even the most developed countries will ever reach that state due to human nature, which means that all countries in the world are ‘in development’. In other words, all countries are developing at a different paces.
There have also been numerous efforts put into deviating from the broad concept of the Third World by creating more narrow cooperative alliances such as the BRICS (Brasil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), G8, the Organization of the Islamic Conference or the ASEAN for example.
These arguments truly illustrate the disinterest of the Third World’s members in mainting their integrity.

To conclude, ‘the unity of the third world remains hypothetical, expressed mainly from the platforms of international conferences.'[1] While the members of the Third World share common traits such as economic depency to the ‘developed’ countries and deficient political structures, the ambitions behind the concept of the Third World seem to be unachievable because the notion has deviated enough from its original ‘non-alignement’ meaning to becoming a negatively-connoted word that refers to a group of poor and underdeveloped countries that no one wants to associate with. It attempts to generalise very distinct and diverse countries that develop at radically different paces and in different ways. Therefore, the notion of a Third World is outdated, unfair and seems to fail at helping underdeveloped countries to develop.

[6] Pithouse, Richard (2005). Report Back from the Third World Network Meeting Accra, 2005. Centre for Civil Society : 1-6.
[7] (Robert Malley, 1999)

Post 7 – Presentation on Colonialism: Continuity and Change

This group studied the continuity and change of colonialism. They focused mainly on studying the impact and effects of the Dutch empire’s colonisation throughout time and especially on current conditions of development in formerly colonised countries around the world. They also studied the British, Spanish and Portuguese empires’ impacts in their research, as well as the consequences of decolonization and the remaining cultural influences of these imperial forces on the colonised countries.

The case studies were presented in a chronological order, and were of much historical truth and illustrated the realities and issues of the processes of colonialism well. The group also used an extensive amount of figures and facts to illustrate their arguments.

The presenters based their research on a wide variety of sources of contrasting natures from satirical illustrations to official statistics.

The group defined the concept by providing academic, as well as opinionated definitions of the concept. The group explored many hypothetical and alternate explanations of the course of colonisation and the state of development in formerly colonised countries today.

The presenters seemed like they mastered their topic and had no trouble answering the questions that followed the presentation. However, they could have not given so much exclusivity to the case of the Dutch empire and its colonies in their research.

Post 6 – Presentation on Gender Inequalities

This group studied the role of gender inequalities on developing countries. They discussed various theories and topics including marxism and its relation with feminism, applications and laws regarding public and private violence in different countries. They illustrated their arguments through several case studies including gender inequalities in Saudi Arabia, human trafficking and nonprotective laws in Thailand and Mozambique along with examples of occurring female abuses including genital mutilation and acid attacks. They also presented the ongoing efforts including the actions of NGOs to eradicate these issues.

The group discussed unprotecting and unfair laws regarding rape, prostitution, and prosecution of women both in Mozambique and Thailand.They also presented gender inequalities in particular societal structures like Saudi Arabia.

The presenters used a significant amount of official sources including governmental websites, academic journals, books and international organisations websites.

They demonstrated the concept of gender inequalities through theories and many precise applications around the world which provided a more realistic illustration of the issues and importance of this subject.

Although not collectively agreed on, they briefly mentioned what needs to be done to eradicate these issues in the end.

The presenters successfully explored subtle and unsubtle realities of gender inequalities in many different contexts through theories and occurring issues. However, many of the legal information could have been compacted.

Post 5 – Presentation on Dependency Theory

The group studied the concept of Dependency Theory. They focused their research on how the Dependency Theory is relevant in explaining the Third World. They mentioned the works of Argentine economist Raúl Prebisch, German economist/historian Karl Marx, and German-American economic historian Andre Gunder Frank.

The group adopted Raúl Prebisch’s opinions to explain the economic relations between the global North and South. They also used Marxist-inspired hypotheses of Andre Gunder Frank to illustrate development on various scales. The group also contrasted these arguments by critiquing them.

The group based their research on books, journals, encyclopedias, and textbooks from various reputed authors such as Vandana Desai and Jorge Larrain. However, the sources were scarce.

The group provided a versatile general definition of the concept and historical information on its origins and also provided more opinionated perspectives, namely Marxism.
They however didn’t succeed in explaining how other theories could explain the interdependency between developed and underdeveloped countries.

The presenters put their Marxist arguments into perspective by explaining why these were contestable, but they didn’t explore any other major opposing perspectives. And due to their limited bibliography, the presentation seemed too focused on the pros and cons of the Marxist approach more than creating a complete picture of the concept and its interpretations.


Globalization is an established process of increasing interconnectedness between societies driven by international trade and investment and facilitated by information technology.
Although widely used, different meanings exist. Thus, we will compare two perspectives of the concept; the economic and the political points of view.

Liberalisation is a driving factor in globalisation, it facilitates trade by removing restrictions on transnational flows, such as trade barriers. From a political point of view, this can be problematic because national authority becomes increasingly irrelevant. In fact, some argue that globalisation ‘refers broadly to the process whereby power is located in global social formations and expressed through global networks rather than through territorially-based states’. (Clark, I 1998:479) and that ‘transnational market forces have become so strong that it was no longer possible for national economic management to control them.’ (Jones, 2014: 22). The world seems to be shrinking in a sense, however ‘this compression is extremely uneven with some areas of the globe left behind. […] Globalization is not occurring at the same rate and same pace in all countries or regions.’ (O’Brien & Williams: 2013, 27)

From an economic point of view, globalisation has reinforced global trade and investment with governments adopting free-market economic systems to facilitate cross-border trade and develop their productive potential and opportunities for foreign trade and investment. These policies have opened economies internationally and created tremendous increases in global trade flows that. Some describe globalisation as ‘the capacity of the world economy to operate as a unit in real time’ (Held, 2005:53-58)

Globalisation has many economic advantages however it threatens national sovereignty and the current global political system by redefining international borders.

Political Theory – Post 2

To illustrate various elements of the concept of ideology, we will study the case of Nazism. Masking itself as a national socialist program, Nazism hid incontestable racism and ethnocentrism that it manifested through anti-Semitic acts like the Holocaust and the assumption of a ‘Master Race’ (Herrenrasse in german) of the White, Germanic, Aryan and Nordic show how the people’s norms and morals can be manipulated and changed with the introduction of an ideology’s own. The rejection of democracy, political parties, labour unions, free press and basically any right to oppose the ruling party along with thought-control police illustrate to what extent the power, control and determination an ideology can have to achieve its goals. ‘Führerprinzip’ (Leader Principle) dictates a belief in the leader, which illustrates the importance of a leader in every ideology, who sort of becomes the personification of everything that said ideology represents. In this context, Adolf Hitler was enough of what the nazi ideology would portray as the exemplary man to gain the mass’s trust and support and be able to lead them to achieving the nazi ideology’s objectives as unorthodox as they may seem to non-nazis today. Charisma played a major role in the progression of the nazi regime, A. Hitler inflicted many of the Nazi manifesto’s objectives on the people through his passionate speeches and outstanding charisma which manipulated their positions and managed to convince them that what the nazi ideology suggested was the way forward, the only truth.

Political Theory – Post 1

Ideology is amongst the most contested terms in politics due to its abstract nature. Types of ideology can be derived from this notion, conscious ideology and unconscious ideology. The first suggests that believers of an ideology adhere to an explicit, clear, written set of rules and objectives, communist or liberals apply to this definition for example. The second type relies on unconsciously shared norms, values and morals, it emerges through ways of living or lifestyles rather than from a written manifesto, some examples include western way of living or mass consumption or consumerism.

It’s most commonly used to refer to a comprehensive set of ideas and morals that define organised political groups. These political groups’ ideas and morals implicitly reinforce and/or challenge the existing order by providing a personal global view of the world as they perceive it. Their manifesto also envisions a model of a desired world that fully complies with their requirements, a sort of ‘successful society’ where every element of the system that runs it is efficient, optimal and right.

By trial and error, they persuade and implicitly urge other members of a society to accept their proposed political changes by illustrating how successful and advantageous the outcome of these will be for everyone.

An essential aspect of an ideology is to indoctrinate their audiences. It presents ideas and morals in a way that leads to beliefs and actions. In fact, Destutt de Tracy describes ideology as the ‘science of ideas’, which suggests that experiments and results are relevant. Indeed, a political organisation’s persuasion is achieved by merging their descriptive and normative approaches. Political groups reinforce their statements and legitimacy by inducing their audiences with guilt or responsibility for the flaws or the future of their society. By doing this, they passively gain the people’s agreement and trust because they embody parent-like role that knows the problem and how to resolve it.

An ideology usually claims to be able to explain the world and make it more comprehensible to its audience, but there is always subjectivity, the truth is modified to demonstrate certain ideas and morals. There also seems to be an important subtle, unsaid, influential and debatably manipulative aspect of their political approach, more is implied than said. Ideologies can come in various forms, from minor social movements like feminism to radical religious organisations like terrorism.

From a communist point of view, Karl Marx describes ideology as instrumentalist, it’s the ideas that achieve the dominant class’s interests by obscuring the evident social stratification and social conflict between the dominant and dominated class. Marx explains that it can also be seen from a functionalist point of view as a way for social groups to demonstrate various kinds of alienation through mutual recognition as members of a certain class. Thus creating a false sense of political equality among social classes by masking the consciousness of being in a class amongst others. This contradicts Destutt de Tracy because it illustrates a clear separation between ideology and science where one represents falsehood and the other represents truth respectively.

Michael Oakeshott suggests considering ideologies as systems of thoughts that obscures actual and historical contexts and focuses politics on more abstract and ambitious goals. Other thinkers, namely liberals, consider ideologies as officially endorsed belief systems that suggest that they propose the only truth, most commonly by using scientific results as proof.