Today I launch my blog from the Third World perspective, with the goal of making posts each weekday. Please check each day for new posts. I begin with discussion of the term “Third World.”
The term comes from the anti-colonial movements of Africa, South Asia, Southeast Asia, and Latin America. These movements began to use “Third World” in the 1950s, and they use it to refer to the colonized and formerly colonized regions of Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, Southeast Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean.
They saw themselves as constituting a Third Revolution. The First Revolution was the bourgeois revolution of Western Europe, which established modern capitalism and liberal democracy. The Second Revolution was the proletarian revolution that established social democracy in Western Europe and socialism and communism in Eastern Europe. In general, the Third World understood the two revolutions as differing versions of materialism. They believed that their traditional cultures were more deeply penetrated by spirituality, and they sought to form a revolution guided by spiritual values. They hoped to establish a Third World, distinct from the capitalist world of the West led by the United States (the First World) and the socialist world of the socialist bloc nations headed by the Soviet Union (the Second World). In creating a single term to refer to the regions of Africa, Asia, and Latin America, they not only were distinguishing themselves from the other two worlds, but they also were expressing their commonality, in spite of cultural differences among them. They understood this commonality to be rooted in the common experience of colonial domination.
Some object to the term “Third World,” thinking that it implies “third rate” or that it obscures the fact that we are speaking of the great majority of people in the world. Such objections seem to ignore the historical roots and the political agenda of the term. The use of the term by Third World intellectuals, scholars, activists, political leaders, and news columnists today is commonplace.
The Third World political agenda remains unfinished, but it is as vibrant and as important as ever. It seems to me that we should continue to use the term in order to express our commitment to that unfinished yet still attainable political agenda, which involves, in essence, the attainment of full independence and sovereignty of all of the nations of the world.