The phrase Third World is one that is frequently used in the political arena. It has almost become a cliché from recurrent using, in and out of places.
The term Third World is used to collectively denote most of the nations of Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East. Many of these nations share a similar past of colonialism. These countries are what the financial world call developing or undeveloped countries. The term gained prominence during the Cold War, to especially denote the nations not aligned to the two geopolitical blocs that time, the US-led NATO and the Soviet Union-led Communist bloc. Later it became almost synonymous with the Non-Aligned Movement, though some countries aligned to the two blocs also were called Third World Countries.
The phrase Third World was first coined by French anthropologist and historian Alfred Sauvy, in an article published in the French magazine L’Observateur on August 14, 1952. He used the term to compare the corresponding world to Third Estate, the French commoners who opposed the noblemen and clergy in pre-democratic France. Then the term earned popularity during cold war, especially through use by former French president Charles de Gaulle.
During the cold war, the USA, UK and their allies with capitalist economies were called First World and the Socialist nations led by Soviet Union were known as Second World. It was in this context the birth of the phrase Third World.
The third world countries house the 75 percent of the world’s population but donate a very small portion to world economy. Many of the countries, except the oil-rich Arab nations, share similar socio-economic conditions like high rate of population growth low per capita income, low literacy, low lifetime expectancy, slow industrialization, low technological advancement, poor infrastructure etc. These countries heavily depend on developed countries and usually tend to have large foreign debts.
Now it has become a stereotype to call poor countries Third World countries but the term’s use broadly encompasses the rapidly developing countries like China, Brazil and India as well. The economic sector is undergoing rapid changes and the term also is facing question about its relevance.
There is also the phrase ‘Fourth World’ in use, first appeared in 1974 in the book The Fourth World: an Indian Reality by Shuswap Chief George Manuel. The term is used to represent the nations of indigenous people living within or across state borders.
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