If You Shouldn’t Call It The Third World, What Should You Call It?

Added: 04-02-2019

This blog post examines the language used to refer to different parts of the world providing an argument about why such terms can be problematic. It specifically discuss the terms, first/third world countries; developing/developed countries; global north/south; low- and lower middle-income countries; majority world; and lean/fat nations. The author finally concludes that specificity is key.

language country label global south developing global north third world developed fat economy first world lean economy lower-income majority world

Type Reading Time Author Date Source
blog 8 minutes MAC SILVER 01-04-2015 http://www.npr.org/
Type Reading Time
blog 8 minutes
Author Date
mac silver 2019-04-02 00:00:00 UTC
Source
http://www.npr.org/
Altered image by pete linforth from pixabay icon 1728614 1920
Key Takeaways
  • It is important to understand the problematic nature of labeling countries into broad inaccurate and unrepresentative categories that perpetuate stereotypes.
  • Whenever there are discussions involving different nations around the world, it is best to refer to those nations by specific names.

Summary

This blog post discusses labels used to refer to different parts of the world such as: ‘first’ and ‘third’ world, ‘developed’ and ‘developing’ nations, “global south,” “low-and lower middle-income countries, or (LMIC),” “Majority World,” and “lean” and “fat.” Overall, the blog finds that all labels can be problematic, therefore, it is best to specifically mention countries for accuracy whenever possible.

Analysis

There have been many attempts to create geographical labeling conventions to describe the world’s countries and their economies. What you call a market matters—it frames the discussion—and in these cases, we may want to reevaluate who is aspiring to what. Here in tabular form, and below, are a few of the most frequent, and some less commonly used, labels. Labels discussed in this blog post are noted (*):

Labels: First World and Third World*

Explanation         Who uses it? History Positive Aspects      Criticism      Relevant Use
• First World: Western Europe and allies

• Second World: The Communist bloc

* Third Word: Every other nation
• Outdated These labels are some of the earliest used; they were established during the Cold War by a demographer who wrote the article, “Three worlds, one planet.” The first world were Western Europe and allies, the second world was the communist bloc, and the third world were the remaining nations. It was a coincidence that the countries in the ‘third world’ category – those not involved in the Cold War – where impoverished nations, thus becoming synonymous with the ‘poor world.’      • None • Out of date, insulting, and confusing

• Does not represent affluent countries that are neither Western nor communist.

• First world is not the ‘best’ world
• Within historical context

Relevant Resources, Articles, and Other Notes:
• If You Shouldn't Call It Third World, What Should You Call It?

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Labels: Developing Countries and Developed Countries*

Explanation        Who uses it? History Positive Aspects      Criticism            Relevant Use
• Colloquially refers to the group of countries that fare relatively and similarly poorly in social and economic measures.

• The World Bank referred to low and middle income countries as "developing" for convenience.

• HOWEVER, in 2016, the World Bank decided to no longer use this binary distinction.
•The United Nations These labels are inspired by Walt Whitman Rostow’s The Stages of Economic Growth: A Non-Communist Manifesto (1960). Rostow argued that all countries go through a series of stages of economic development from “underdeveloped” to “developed”. Western Europe, United States and Japan were considered highest developed and all other countries were working their way up. • Alludes to countries that need to develop better healthcare, schooling, and access to resources.

• Gives countries the opportunity to improve.

• Refers to economically developing nations of Africa, Asia and Latin America.
• Assumes a hierarchy between countries.

• Paints Western societies as ideal while there are plenty of social issues.

• Perpetuates stereotypes of backwards and lazy about people from the ‘developing world.’

• Many developing countries have highly developed social networks that are absent in the ‘developed world.’

• Economic and social measures have not been precisely defined.

• Even if it claims to be categorization based on GNI (Gross National Income), the label lumps together countries that have extremely dissimilar GNIs.

• Although they have no official definition, the UN labels 159 nations as "developing" - All of Europe, North America along with Japan, Australia and New Zealand are "developed regions," and all other countries and regions are "developing."

• Implicit assumption that 'developing countries' are working towards becoming like Europe or America.

• Hides histories of oppression and continued exploitation.
• Within historical context

Relevant Resources, Articles, and Other Notes
• If You Shouldn't Call It Third World, What Should You Call It?
• Should we continue to use the term 'developing world"?
• The World Bank is eliminating the term "developing country" from its data vocabulary
• Developing Countries
• The Case for Dividing the World Into 'Fat' and 'Lean' Countries

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Labels: Global North and Global South*

  Explanation   Who uses it? History Positive Aspects Criticism Relevant Use
The concept of a gap between the Global North and the Global South in terms of development and wealth • Academic fields
• Political Science
• Developmental Studies
• United Nations
Based on the development of the "Brandt Line" in the 1980s, which geographically split the world into richer and poorer nations. Richer countries are almost all located in the Northern Hemisphere, with the exception of Australia and New Zealand. Poorer countries are mostly located in tropical regions and in the Southern Hemisphere. • Majority of poor counties are in the Southern Hemisphere.

• The use of the phrase "Global South" marks a shift from a focus on development or cultural difference toward and emphasis on geographical power relations.

• Better than "first/third world" or "developed/developing" countries as it is less hierarchical and carries more weight in resisting hegemonic forces.
• Impoverished Haiti is in the global north.

• Many rich countries are in the south: Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, and Chile.

• "Intellectually lazy" - According to Hans Rosling.

• It is not a precise geographic distinction, rather it is economic division between rich(er) and poor(er) countries, with most people in the so-called Global South actually living in the northern hemisphere (for example, in India and China).
• Global development reports

• Academic pieces

Relevant Resources, Articles, and Other Notes:
• If You Shouldn't Call It Third World, What Should You Call It?
• A 60 Second Guide to Global North/South Divide
• The Global South
• Introduction: Concepts of the Global South**

**Note: "However, Boike Rehbein states that those choosing this terminology are mainly members of the upper classes in the Global South who profit from the political and economic reality – through expanding south-south relations, for example. Which term is used barely matters for the large majority of the inhabitants of the so-called Global South. Indeed, Felix Lamech Mogambi Ming’ate illustrates that it means little to most Kenyans – who live in a country considered to be part of the Global South."

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Labels: Low-income countries (LIC), Lower middle-income countries (LMIC), Upper middle-income countries (UMIC), and High-income countries(HIC)*

Explanation Who uses it? History Positive Aspects  Criticism      Relevant Use
• Based on countries' GDP.

• For the current 2017 fiscal year, low-income economies are defined as those with a Gross National Income (GNI) per capita, calculated using the World Bank Atlas method, of $1,025 or less in 2015; lower middle-income economies are those with a GNI per capita between $1,026 - $4,035; upper middle-income economies are those with a GNI per capita between $4,036 - $12,475; high-income economies are those with a GNI per capita of $12,476 or more.
• The World Health Organization (WHO)

• The World Bank
These terms were established by the World Bank based on the view that since poorer countries deserve better conditions from the Bank, comparative estimates of economic capacity needed to be established. GNI, a broad measure, was considered to be the best single indicator of economic capacity and progress; at the same time it was recognized that GNI does not, by itself, constitute or measure welfare or success in development. GNI per capita is therefore the Bank's main criterion of classifying countries. • Numbers are objective • Countries may have flawed statistics collection and estimation.

• Uncommonly used terms outside global health and development agencies.
• Measures of Gross National Income (GNI) per capita are a useful social indicator.

• Economic fields.

Relevant Resources, Articles, and Other Notes:
• If You Shouldn't Call It Third World, What Should You Call It?
• The World Bank is eliminating the term "developing country" from its data vocabulary
• World Bank Country and Lending Groups
Country Classification: A short history

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Labels: Majority World and Minority World*

Explanation     Who uses it? History Positive Aspects  Criticism  Relevant Use
• Alluding to the fact that the West is a small minority and "developing countries" are majority of humankind. • No official use In the early nineties, Bangladeshi photographer Shahidul Alam began advocating for a new expression “majority world” to replace "Third World.” • 80 percent of humanity lives on $10 or less a day. • Uncommon

• Not “trippingly off the tongue”
•Development fields

Relevant Resources, Articles, and Other Notes:
• If You Shouldn't Call It Third World, What Should You Call It?

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Labels: Fat countries and Lean countries*

Explanation    Who uses it?  History  Positive Aspects  Criticism  Relevant Use
• About maximizing value and minimizing waste

• Lean:
-Societies that approach consumption and production with scarcity in mind.
-The reference is also used in the tech sector where innovative startups operate with few resources.
-Population is young and hungry for opportunity.
-GNI per person around $1,200

• Fat:
-Societies where 'plenty' is normal.
-Countries with ‘fat economies’ (e.g. the U.S.)
-GNI per person around $41,000
• No official use Coined by Dayo Olopade • Does not assume that 'lean' countries should mimic 'fat' countries.

• Not a comparison between nations

• Measure countries based on their own merits.

• Defines community in terms of what it is, rather than what it lacks.
• Not very specific • Market, economic and consumption discussions

Relevant Resources, Articles, and Other Notes:
• If You Shouldn't Call It Third World, What Should You Call It?
• The End of the Developing World
• The Case for Dividing the World Into 'Fat' and 'Lean' Countries

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Labels: Advanced Economies and Emerging Market and Developing Economies

  Explanation        Who uses it?         History Positive Aspects Criticism Relevant Use
• 37 Countries are in the "Advanced Economies" category and the rest are in the latter category.

• Not based on strict criteria, economic or otherwise.

• Emerging markets were economies with low-to-middle per capita income.
• IMF, in the "World Economic Outlook (WEO)"

• Morgan Stanley Capital International

• Most financial news outlets
"Emerging market" was coined in early 1980s by Antoine van Agtmael, then working for the World Bank’s International Financial Corporation, during an investor conference in Thailand in 1981 as an alternative to "Third World." • Avoids the rigid distinction between "developed" and "developing; rather it describes countries as having great promise and potential. • Not based on strict criteria, economic or otherwise: Different organizations such as the International Monetary Fund, the UN and financial index providers such as MSCI, JPMorgan and FTSE use a clutter of conflicting criteria to categorize emerging markets.

• Defines people by how much money they make and sets the Western way of life as the ultimate goal.
• Global finances

• Used to describe equity, bond or currency markets.

Relevant Resources, Articles, and Other Notes:
• Should we continue to use the term 'developing world"?
• Fat vs. Lean Markets
• The Long View: How adventurous are emerging markets?

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Labels: Very high, High, Medium, and Low

Explanation         Who uses it? History Positive Aspects Criticism Relevant Use
• Multidimensional measure of wellbeing (life expectancy, education, income per capita) • UNDP's (United Nations Development Programme) Human Development Index Produced by UNDP in 1990, designed and launched by Mahbub ul Haq and Amartya Sen. • Draws on various indicators including income, education, health. • N.A. • Global economy

Relevant Resources, Articles, and Other Notes:
• Should we continue to use the term 'developing world"?

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Label: Bottom of the Pyramid (BOP)

Explanation Who uses it? History Positive Aspects   Criticism   Relevant Use
• A socio-economic concept referring to the largest but poorest socio-economic group.

• Citizens who live with less than $2.5 and constitute "an invisible and unserved market blocked by challenging barriers that prevent them from realising their human potential for their own benefit, those of their families, and that of society's at large."***

• Members excluded from the "modernity of globalised civilised societies, including consumption and choice as well as access to organised financial services."***

• Estimates say the BOP as consumers has "about $5 trillion in Purchasing Power Parity terms."
• Economists

• Business managers

• Entrepreneurs
This term was first coined by Franklin D. Roosevelt and popularized by C.K. Prahalad, particularly through his book, Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid. Prahalad "has inspired influential leaders and countless ordinary citizens sharing his vision, to joint efforts for the unleashing of their creative and productive potential as part of an inclusive capitalist system, free of paternalism toward the poor." • Refers to a market based approach to alleviate poverty through economic opportunities. • Defines people by how much money they make and sets the Western way of life as the ultimate goal. • N.A. 

Relevant Resources, Articles, and Other Notes:
***• Definition of bottom of the pyramid (BOP)
• Fat vs. Lean Markets
• 10 technologies for the bottom of the pyramid
• Bottom of the pyramid

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Note: The LensShift team recognizes other labels such as “Industrialized World,” “Industrialized Nation,” and “Modern Nations.” We are currently looking for in-depth resources to examine these terms.



From http://www.npr.org/