The Industrial Revolution in World History

By Peter N. Stearns | Go to book overview

13
The New Spectrum in the Less Industrial World: Evolution and Exploitation

Economic development experts (including, in their separate fashions, both modernization and dependency theorists), politicians, and large segments of the general public became accustomed after 1950 to thinking of a world economically divided in two: There were industrialized societies, and there were others-- underdeveloped or developing. A society either had it or did not. Other terms came into play. "Third World" was initially a Cold War concept designed to identify societies that were permanently aligned neither with the West (capitalist democracy) nor with the Soviet bloc (communism), but because most of the Third World countries were also not completely industrialized, the term survived the Cold War and meant simply underdeveloped. Finally, in the 1980s the North- South dualism became popular: The "North" meant industrial, the "South" mainly the nonindustrial Southern Hemisphere but also Northern Hemisphere nations, like those on the Indian subcontinent, where great poverty persisted and industrialization seemed to lag.

The dualistic distinction accurately described one definable gap: Some parts of the world had experienced an industrial revolution or, like South Korea, were clearly in the process of experiencing one, and some parts had not. Industrialized countries had, by definition, more manufacturing, more advanced technology, and (except for Eastern Europe) higher living standards on average than less industrial ones. Beyond this real but rather gross distinction, however, the "Third World" label was almost completely misleading in implying some uniform, barely changing condition for the majority of the world's population that lived in "nonindustrial" economies. Ironically, the distinction would have been considerably more valid in the two previous phases of the world's industrial history, when a

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