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___ First, Second and Third World

keywords: first, second and third world, the three world model, third world countries, three-world classification

Worlds within the World?

And why is our music called world music? I think people are being polite. What they want to say is that it's third world music. Like they use to call us underdeveloped countries, now it has changed to developing countries, it's much more polite.

Miriam Makeba

The First, the Second, and the Third World.
When people talk about the poorest countries of the world, they often refer to them with the general term Third World, and they think everybody knows what they are talking about. But when you ask them if there is a Third World, what about a Second or a First World, you almost always get an evasive answer. Other people even try to use the terms as a ranking scheme for the state of development of countries, with the First World on top, followed by the Second World and so on, that's perfect - nonsense.

To close the gap of information you will find here explanations of the terms.

The use of the terms First, the Second, and the Third World is a rough, and it's safe to say, outdated model of the geopolitical world from the time of the cold war.
There is no official definition of the first, second, and the third world. Below OWNO's explanation of the terms.

Four Worlds
After World War II the world split into two large geopolitical blocs and spheres of influence with contrary views on government and the politically correct society:
1 - The bloc of democratic-industrial countries within the American influence sphere, the "First World".
2 - The Eastern bloc of the communist-socialist states, the "Second World".
3 - The remaining three-quarters of the world's population, states not aligned with either bloc were regarded as the "Third World."
4 - The term "Fourth World", coined in the early 1970s by Shuswap Chief George Manuel, refers to widely unknown nations (cultural entities) of indigenous peoples, "First Nations" living within or across national state boundaries.

First there was the three worlds model
The origin of the terminology is unclear. In 1952 Alfred Sauvy, a French demographer, wrote an article in the French magazine L'Observateur which ended by comparing the Third World with the Third Estate: "ce Tiers Monde ignoré, exploité, méprisé comme le Tiers État" (this ignored Third World, exploited, scorned like the Third Estate). Other sources claim that Charles de Gaulle coined the term Third World, maybe de Gaulle only has quoted Sauvy. However...

__ Definitions

point  The term "First World" refers to so called developed, capitalist, industrial countries, roughly, a bloc of countries aligned with the United States after World War II, with more or less common political and economic interests: North America, Western Europe, Japan and Australia.

Countries of the "First World"

point  "Second World" refers to the former communist-socialist, industrial states, (formerly the Eastern bloc, the territory and sphere of influence of the Union of Soviet Socialists Republic) today: Russia, Eastern Europe (e.g., Poland) and some of the Turk States (e.g., Kazakhstan) as well as China.

Countries of the "Second World"

point  "Third World" are all the other countries, today often used to roughly describe the developing countries of Africa, Asia and Latin America.
The term Third World includes as well capitalist (e.g., Venezuela) and communist (e.g., North Korea) countries, as very rich (e.g., Saudi Arabia) and very poor (e.g., Mali) countries.

Countries of the "Third World"
Third World Countries classified by various indices: their Political Rights and Civil Liberties, the Gross National Income (GNI) and Poverty of countries, the Human Development of countries (HDI), and the Freedom of Information within a country.

What makes a nation third world?
Despite everevolving definitions, the concept of the third world serves to identify countries that suffer from high infant mortality, low economic development, high levels of poverty, low utilization of natural resources, and heavy dependence on industrialized nations. These are the developing and technologically less advanced nations of Asia, Africa, Oceania, and Latin America. Third world nations tend to have economies dependent on the developed countries and are generally characterized as poor with unstable governments and having high rates of population growth, illiteracy, and disease. A key factor is the lack of a middle class — with impoverished millions in a vast lower economic class and a very small elite upper class controlling the country's wealth and resources. Most third world nations also have a very large foreign debt.
(What makes a nation third world? from Encyclopedia of World Geography)

point  The term "Fourth World" first came into use in 1974 with the publication of Shuswap Chief George Manuel's: The fourth world : an Indian reality (amazon link to the book), the term refers to nations (cultural entities, ethnic groups) of indigenous peoples living within or across state boundaries (nation states).

see Native American Indians
American Indian Nations.

More links to nations of the "Fourth World" you will find at the Nations Online Project respective country pages under "Natives".
The outdated three worlds model

first, second and third world map
Map according to the outdated Three World Model.

Why is Greenland a Third World country?
In times of the Third World model Greenland was sealed off from international commerce and Denmark was maintaining a strict monopoly on Greenlandic trade, allowing only small scale barter (troaking) with Scottish whalers. During the 1950s and 1960s the Danish government introduced an urbanization and modernization program, aimed at creating an urban economic environment in Greenland, by expanding the coastal towns. People from the surrounding small settlements were rehoused in hastily built houses and modern fishing practices were introduced.

Why is rich Saudi Arabia a Third World country?
According to the old Three World Model, Saudi Arabia was not aligned with the US nor was it part of the Soviet Union bloc, the Eastern Bloc. Saudi Arabia's reserves of oil were discovered only in 1938 and development to exploit this reserves began in 1941. Until then Saudi Arabia was a country with Arab tribal culture. And even today Saudi Arabia is a very conservative country. It is run by a royal and religious elite. Public expression of opinion about domestic political or social matters is discouraged. There are no theaters or public exhibition of films. There are no organizations such as political parties or labor unions to provide public forums. (See also: Culture of Saudi Arabia)


Additional Information

Related Categories:
Least Developed Countries
List of Least Developed Countries (LDCs)
Landlocked Developing Countries
List of Landlocked Developing Countries (LLDCs).
Rich and poor countries
Categories of development of countries in the world today.
Sovereign Debt and Credit Rating of Countries
2011-2012 List of countries with a variety of indicators of their financial stability or instability.
Human Development Index
Countries categorized by standards of the UN Human Development Index.

World Recources 2008
The tables presents some of the data required to build a basic picture of the state of the World in its human, economic, and environmental dimensions.

Population and Human Well-Being
Table of core indicators on population, health, education, poverty, infant mortality, and HIV/AIDS prevalence by countries.
Food and Water Recources
The table contains four core indicators: Intensity of Agricultural Inputs, Food Security and Nutrition, Fisheries Production and Water Resources.
Economics and Trade
Compare countries by core indicators of their Gross Domestic Product (GDP), GDP Distribution by the Sectors Agriculture, Industry and Services, Adjusted Net Savings, Export of Goods and Services, and Financial Flows.
Institutions and Governance
Shows values of core indicators to evaluate governments and levels of freedom within countries. Compare Freedom Indices of Civil Liberties and Political Rights; Regulatory Barriers, Government Expenditures for Public Health, Public Education and Military; and peoples Access to Information.

Country Economies Classification
List of countries by World Bank classification of their economies.
Countries by Gross National Income (GNI)
A list of countries and regions in comparison of their gross national income based on purchasing-power-parity (PPP) per capita in int'l Dollars.

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External Links:

Criteria for determining the "Least Developed Countries"

UN Office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries

UN World and regional groupings

Sovereignty, Statehood and Self-Determination
An article by M. R. Franks about Nii Lante Wallace-Bruce's book, Claims to Statehood in International Law.

Three-World Model
World geographer Ingolf Vogeler about the Three-World Model.

Cold War's Third World Countries
About cold war and the Three-World Model.

Discovering the Third World
Brief article about the Third World.

Third World - definition
Third World - definitions and descriptions by Gerard Chaliand.

Background on the Term "Fourth World"
The Meaning of 'Nation' and 'State' in the Fourth World by Dr. Richard Griggs.
Nations of the First World Nations of the Second World Nations of the Third World