The Idea of a ‘Third World’

  • B. C. Smith


Since this chapter examines a controversy over the label ‘Third World’ it is appropriate to begin with a definition. In order to identify the subject-matter of this book, to convey the diversity of the social and economic conditions found within the Third World, and to provide an outline of the major changes taking place in Third World countries, an indication of the key characteristics of Third World status must be given. For the purpose of this survey the Third World will be defined as a group of countries which have colonial histories and which are in the process of developing economically and socially from a status characterised by low incomes, dependence on agriculture, weakness in trading relations, social deprivation for large segments of society, and restricted political and civil liberties. This definition acknowledges the process of change and therefore the probable diversity of countries within the group. The following examination of Third World status and trends will follow the components of the definition: the achievement of political independence; average income levels; industrialisation; integration into the world economy; social well-being; and human development (Thomas, 1994, p. 10). By this definition the Third World comprises approximately 100 states in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, Latin America and the Caribbean. Their combined population of some 4 billions accounts for 75 per cent of the world’s total and their territories cover nearly 70 per cent of the world’s land area (World Bank, 1993, pp. 238–9).


Middle East Poor Country Human Development Index United Nations Development Programme World Country 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© B. C. Smith 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • B. C. Smith
    • 1
  1. 1.University of DundeeUK

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