Academic journal article Journal of Third World Studies

Third World/Global South: From Development to Globalization to Imperial Project

Academic journal article Journal of Third World Studies

Third World/Global South: From Development to Globalization to Imperial Project

Article excerpt


The decolonization process of the 1960s brought the newly independent countries of Africa into the halls of the United Nations, swelled the membership of the General Assembly, and called attention to the social, economic, and political problems of the countries that would be grouped together as the Third World. The newly independent countries of Africa and the countries of Asia that became independent after World War II came together through their leaders in 1955 at Bandung, Indonesia, to form a movement that would not be aligned in the Cold War then raging between the First World, the industrialized, capitalist, and democratic countries of the West, and the second World, the communist countries. Later joined by the countries of Latin America, independent since the 19th century, the term "Third World," would be applied to them. It was first used by the French economist and demographer Afred Sauvy in 1952 who saw the Third World (Tiers Monde) as a modern parallel to the Third Estate (Tiers Etat) of the French Revolution, the class of commoners after the aristocracy and the clergy. It was a brilliant but flawed idea. (1)

With the breakup of the Soviet Union and the liberation of Eastern Europe, with the practical disappearance, in other words, of the Second World, the poor, underdeveloped countries of the Third World are more often referred to today as "South" or "developing countries," surely an improvement over the former designation, "backward countries." "Third World" continues to be a useful and powerful analytic concept, however, because its problems are not only and primarily economic, much less geographic. The historical, social, economic, political, and cultural landscape of the countries grouped under that term is conditioned by the cumulative and continuing effects of colonization, imperialism, and Western domination. (2) There have also been dramatic changes, foremost of which is the rise to economic power of China, India, and the dragons of Asia. Still the majority of poor people continues to reside in the Third World, sometimes therefore referred to as Two Thirds World. In recognition of the phenomenon of globalization, the most recent designation is Third World/Global South.

The West has been an important part of modern Third World/Global South history, not only during colonialism but even after independence. This article traces the stages that countries of the Third World/Global South have gone though and the policies they have been subjected to in their post-colonial struggle for political independence and economic development. The article marks three stages: the development project, the globalization project, and the imperial project.


In 1960 no fewer than seventeen former colonies in Africa rushed to freedom, achieved political independence, and became members of the United Nations, the most in any one year. It was a time of euphoria and high hopes. On December 19, 1961, on a proposal by the President of the United States, the U.N. General Assembly, in Resolution No. 1710, designated the decade as the United Nations Development Decade, during which it urged its member-nations to intensify efforts, to mobilize and sustain support for measures that would accelerate progress towards self-sustaining growth of underdeveloped countries. The target was a minimum annual rate of growth of aggregate national income of five percent at the end of the decade. In Resolution 1711, the General Assembly expressed hope that the flow of capital and technical assistance be substantially increased so that it might reach as soon as possible approximately one percent of the combined national incomes of the economically advanced countries. In Resolution 1715, the General Assembly called upon member-states to review their contributions to the support of the work of the Expanded Program of Technical Assistance and the Special Fund, later to be transformed into the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), so that the combined budgets of these two organs in the year 1962 might reach the target of $150 million. …

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