The term Third World obscures all parts of a country’s culture apart from those which are to be pitied or improved. Third World also implies homogeneity across all the countries in this grouping, one that does not exist economically, socially or politically. This 1-2-3 classification is out of date, insulting and confusing. It suggests that regardless of level of economic and social development, comparative advantages or system of governance, they are all to be treated as less than.
The word suggests a hierarchy that is not restricted to a ranking of progress in development indicators or to the historical allegiance of nations during the Cold War, as its origins are claimed to be, but is attached to real people and their ethnicities. It suggests that the US with its white majority is innately better than and encourages not an examination of global inequality as a result of historical exploitation, but of the notion that these countries have less because they are objectively worth less.
Terms like “global north” and “global south” — which are meant to refer to the generally wealthy countries of the Northern Hemisphere and generally poorer countries of the Southern Hemisphere — are not proper substitutes because of the political subtexts of those terms. The terms are too broad to be useful, and a handful of booming economies in the global south pose a problem to the duality.
"Developing Country” seems like it might be a better choice, because, on the surface, it seems accurate when referring to countries that need to develop better health care systems, better schools, and better ways to bring water and electricity to people. However, the “developed,” “developing,” and “underdeveloped” categories come with their own problems. The term assumes that Western-style development is the best for everyone. There is also no clear distinction between each phase, and the terms ignore the many problems that exist in “developed” countries, implying that they have no room for improvement. Using this classification paints a picture of Western societies as ideal, ignoring the problems that exist among them.
It seems the most sensible course is to discard blanket terms and metaphors, and compare countries using specified metrics. Contrast low-income against high-income, democracy against authoritarian regimes, and so on. This has the advantage of being both precise and transparent about the value judgments at play when evaluating countries.
1. The World Bank stopped using the term “developing country.” Here’s why you should too.
2. Why You Shouldn't Call Poor Nations 'Third World Countries'
3. Why you should stop using the term “third world countries”
4. If You Shouldn't Call It The Third World, What Should You Call It?
5. Are We Still Saying That? Because We Should Stop.
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