‘Third World’ is a term originally used to distinguish those nations that neither aligned with the West nor with the East during the Cold War. These countries are also known as the Global South, developing countries, and least developed countries in academic circles. Some dislike the term developing countries as it implies industrialisation is the only way forward and is not necessarily the most beneficial.
Many ‘third world’ countries are located in Africa, Latin America, and Asia. They are often nations that were colonised by another nation in the past. The populations of third World countries are generally very poor with high birth rates. In general they are not as industrialised or technologically advanced as the first world. The majority the countries in the world fit this classification.
The term ‘third world’ was coined by economist Alfred Sauvy in an article in the French magazine L’Obsenweur of August 14, 1952. It was a deliberate reference to the ‘Third Estate’ of the French Revolution. Tiers monde means third world in French. The term gained widespread popularity during the Cold War when many poorer nations adopted the category to describe themselves as neither being aligned with NATO or the USSR, but instead composing a non-aligned ‘third world’ (in this context, the term ‘First World’ was generally understood to mean the United States and its allies in the Cold War, which would have made the East bloc the ‘Second World’ by default; however, the latter term was seldom actually used).
Leading members of this original ‘third world’ movement were Yugoslavia, India, and Egypt. Many third world countries believed they could successfully court both the communist and capitalist nations of the world, and develop key economic partnerships without necessarily falling under their direct influence. In practice, this plan did not work out quite so well; many third world nations were exploited or undermined by the two superpowers who feared these supposedly neutral nations were in danger of falling into alignment with the enemy. After World War II, the First and Second Worlds struggled to expand their respective spheres of influence to the Third World. The militaries and intelligence services of the United States and the Soviet Union worked both secretly and overtly to influence Third World Countries World governments, with mixed success.
The dependency theory suggests that multinational corporations and organizations such as the IMF and World Bank have contributed to making third world countries dependent on first world countries for economic survival. The theory states that this dependence is self-maintaining because the economic systems tend to benefit first world countries and corporations. Scholars also question whether the idea of development is biased in favour of Western thought. They debate whether population growth is a main source of problems in the third world or if the problems are more complex and thorny than that. Policy makers disagree on how much involvement first world countries should have in the third world and whether third world debts should be cancelled.
The issues are complicated by the stereotypes of what third world and first world countries are like. People in the first world, for example, often describe third world countries as underdeveloped, overpopulated, and oppressed. Third world people are sometimes portrayed as uneducated, helpless, or backwards. Modern scholarship has taken steps to make academic discourse more conscious of the differences not only between the first world and the third world, but ^so among the countries and people of each category.
during the Cold War there were a number of countries, which did not fit comfortably into the neat definition of
First, Second, and Third Worlds. These included Switzerland, Sweden, and the Republic of Ireland, they decided to remain neutral. Finland was under the Soviet Union’s sphere of influence but was not communist, nor was it a member of the Warsaw Pact. Austria was under the United States’ sphere of influence, but in 1955, when the country again became a fully independent republic, it remained neutral. None of these countries would have been defined as third world despite their none (or marginally) aligned status.
With the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, the term Second World largely fell out of use and the meaning of First World extended to include all developed countries while the term Third Word has become a neologism for the least developed countries. This can be seen in the way that the successful Asian economies and countries of former Yugoslavia—one of the founders of the Third World movement—are not classed as Third World countries.