Third World

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Third World,

the technologically less advanced, or developing, nations of Asia, Africa, and Latin America, generally characterized as poor, having economies distorted by their dependence on the export of primary products to the developed countries in return for finished products. These nations also tend to have high rates of illiteracy, disease, and population growth and unstable governments. The term Third World was originally intended to distinguish the nonaligned nations that gained independence from colonial rule beginning after World War II from the Western nations and from those that formed the Communist Eastern bloc, and sometimes more specifically from the United States and from the Soviet Union (the first and second worlds, respectively). For the most part the term has not included China. Politically, the Third World emerged at the Bandung ConferenceBandung Conference,
meeting of representatives of 29 African and Asian nations, held at Bandung, Indonesia, in 1955. The aim—to promote economic and cultural cooperation and to oppose colonialism—was more or less achieved in an atmosphere of cordiality.
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 (1955), which resulted in the establishment of the Nonaligned MovementNonaligned Movement,
organized movement of nations that attempted to form a third world force through a policy of nonalignment with the United States and Soviet Union. Yugoslavia, India, Indonesia, Egypt, and Ghana were instrumental in founding (1961) the movement, which grew
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. Numerically, the Third World dominates the United Nations, but the group is diverse culturally and increasingly economically, and its unity is only hypothetical. The oil-rich nations, such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Libya, and the newly emerged industrial states, such as Taiwan, South Korea, and Singapore, have little in common with desperately poor nations, such as Haiti, Chad, and Afghanistan.


See A. R. Kasdan, The Third World: A New Focus for Development (1973); E. Hermassi, The Third World Reassessed (1980); H. A. Reitsma and J. M. Kleinpenning, The Third World in Perspective (1985); J. Cole, Development and Underdevelopment (1987).

Third World

countries mainly found in Asia, Africa and Latin America and the Caribbean, many having been colonies until the mid-20th-century, and today manifesting lower levels of INDUSTRIALIZATION and general living standards than the advanced industrial countries.

The term was first used in the early 1950s and taken up by Third World political leaders engaged in independence movements against European COLONIALISM. It signified the positive idea that politically and economically their countries would develop in ways different both from the first world, Western Europe and the US, and the second world of the USSR and the Soviet Bloc. Subsequently, the term has become associated with negative aspects of poor living standards, great social inequality, economic stagnation and political instability such that many people living in these countries now resent the use of the term. Alternatives preferred by some authors include underdeveloped, NEOCOLONIAL, less developed countries (LDCs), oppressed nations, peripheral or nonaligned countries. The recent emergence of NEWLY INDUSTRIALIZING COUNTRIES alongside countries that are stagnating or becoming poorer (sometimes referred to as the FOURTH WORLD), and the further division between socialist and non-socialist countries have highlighted the issue of whether such a blanket term is useful for referring to such a diverse range of countries. However, the term still has wide social scientific and general usage. Various attempts have been made to distinguish the Third World both qualitatively and quantitatively (see Thomas et al., 1994), and Worsley (1984) has defended its utility. See also SOCIOLOGY OF DEVELOPMENT, DEPENDENCY, UNDERDEVELOPMENT, CENTRE AND PERIPHERY.

Third World


a term used in sociopolitical and scholarly literature to designate the developing countries.

Third World

the less economically advanced countries of Africa, Asia, and Latin America collectively, esp when viewed as underdeveloped and as neutral in the East-West alignment. Also called: developing world
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