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Research Paper on Third World

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In 1952 Alfred Sauvy, French politician and economist, was one of the first who introduced the term ‘Third World’ (le Tiers Monde). The term conveys a conscious echo of the older concept of ‘le tiers etat’ that is, ‘the third estate’ (the common people, the poor and underprivileged) of the prerevolutionary ancient regime (Owusu 15674).

This concept emerged and gained popularity at the time of the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union. Most countries of the world acceded to one of the militant parties, the superstates. They were referred to as the First World, the capitalistic one, under the US sphere of influence and the Second World, the communistic one, under the Soviet Union sphere of influence. The ostensibly nonaligned nations of the Caribbean, Latin America, Africa, Asia, and the Pacific region became known, almost by default, as the Third World (Kich 1065). These countries believed they do not need to accede to NATO and Warsaw Pact, and fall under the direct influence of the superpowers. They believed they can develop, grow and prosper without any alliances. However, this expectation failed.

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Most Third World countries became increasingly politically unstable, socially fragmented, economically dysfunctional, and environmentally distressed (Kich 1065). From this point, the meaning of the term ‘Third World’ extended. Diseases, political instability, poverty and slavery, technological and economic backwardness, internecine wars became synonyms of the Third World.

It is important to note that most of these countries are the former colonies of the European empires and their territories are rich with natural resources. Within centuries empires suppressed their development by exploiting their people and resources. Colonialism which followed the transatlantic slave trade in Africa, during which an estimated 10 million or more Africans were exported to provide unpaid labor for European plantations and mines of the Americas, did incalculable damage to black Africa (Owusu 15675). After decolonization, First and Second World countries continued their struggle for the economic and political control over Third World.

Later, in the 1970s there was another round of the armament race. At this time Mao Zedong, the Chinese leader, presented his strategic view on the division of the world. According to this vision, two superpowers – the Soviet Union and the United States – together represent the First World; Europe, Japan and Canada and some other developing countries belong to the Second World; the remaining Asia, Africa, Latin America and other regions belong to the Third World (Ministry of Foreign Affairs of People’s Republic of China). Mao Zedong blamed the First World for the instability of the undeveloped countries.

With the end of the Cold War in 1990s classification of the world countries evolved to the following: developed countries belong to the First and Second World (it is difficult to distinguish them), undeveloped – to the Third World.

Neo-colonialism period exposes the Third World to the following key challenges:

  • Economic and political dependence (most facilities are owned by developed countries; any financial assistance is provided in exchange for access to natural resources or other strategic benefits etc.);
  • Exploitation (developed countries exploit cheap workforce of the Third world);
  • Poverty and hunger;
  • No access to technologies;
  • Undeveloped civil rights system, low living standards;
  • and many other.

When discussing the countries of Africa, Asia and Latin America it is appropriate to use the term ‘Third World’ as most countries of the listed continents/regions are very poor and underdeveloped. However, there are some exceptions like Saudi-Arabia – a very rich Asian country.

There are numerous socio-economic development theories developed in the political economy. The orthodox approach to development emphasizes the importance of pricing, reducing/removing government controls and promoting competition. Therefore, economic backwardness is explained by the poor performance of the governments and inability to adopt reforms. According to this theory, once all restrictions that hinder private investment are removed, the dynamic forces of the private sector will be unleashed and the society will benefit from rapid economic growth (Lodewijks 194).

Classic (liberal) theory equated the development with capital formation, industrialization and growth of production function. Newer theories offer a different view on the concept of development and its stages.

Walt Rostow, American economist and one of the founders of the modernization approach, developed a theory of stages of economic growth. He argued that all countries pass through the same development cycle. Developed countries are at the last development stage, while undeveloped (Third World) – at the first. According to this theory, it is possible to identify all societies, in their economic dimensions, as lying within one of five categories:

  1. the traditional society,
  2. the preconditions for take-off,
  3. the take-off,
  4. the drive to maturity,
  5. and the age of high mass-consumption (Rostow 4).

The concept of traditional society implies that production function is limited. It is limited by many factors, but the primary one is technological advance. However, it is possible to increase production limit with the help of new technologies and techniques in the long term.

At the second growth stage, the preconditions for take-off are developed and the society is ready to utilize them, but can not exploit the benefits in the short-run (e.g. it will take decades before new education system will yield good specialists).

At the third growth stage the economics grows steadily at the cost of resources mobilized during the previous stage (e.g. exploitation of natural resources, which were unreachable before, with new technologies).

At the fourth stage an economy demonstrates the capacity to move beyond the original industries which powered its take-off and to absorb and to apply efficiently over a very wide range of its resources–if not the whole range–the most advanced fruits of (then) modern technology. This is the stage in which an economy demonstrates that it has the technological and entrepreneurial skills to produce not everything, but anything that it chooses to produce (Rostow 9). After that society passes to the last stage – the age of mass-consumption.

Rostow’s model of development encompasses and gives rise to the modernization theory: economic growth is combined with political modernization (i.e. nation building) and social modernization (e.g. fostering entrepreneurship).

Gabriel Almond examined political development from a number of perspectives: bureaucracy, political culture, communications, role of leadership and some other. Almond significantly expanded modernization approach to political development by researching how the above-mentioned factors affect development.

If Africa is on the lowest (first) stage of development according to the framework provided by W. Rostow, then we can conclude it will not move to the next stage within centuries. It is absolutely true that production in Africa is limited. The key limiting factors are technological backwardness, lack of resources, instability, regional conflicts and many others. In addition, developed countries do their best to hinder socio-economic development of the African states in order to continue exploitation of African people and natural resources.

From the point of orthodox development approach, we can state that despite political instability and undeveloped legal system, multinational companies seeking for access to natural resources penetrate African markets and lobby their interests via bribery, international financial organizations (like the World Bank and IMF). We can claim that private sector in Africa exists, but it is represented by foreign companies. African countries can not adopt reforms and this hinders their development. African leaders strive for their own benefits and do not care about development.

At this point it looks like most development theories can not be applied to Africa and other suppressed Third World countries until developed countries realize their interest at the cost of the undevelopment of the Third World.

For many years European colonialists controlled and exploited most of African countries. They exploited natural resources and human. Millions of Africans were exported to Europe to provide unpaid labor. Millions tons of natural resources were exported as well.

In the 1900s in many parts of the continent there emerged nationalist movements. The primary objective set by nationalists is to get rid of colonialists and get independence. The struggle between European empires and African nationalists lasted decades.

African nationalists believed that Africans could gain equality and self-respect in the modern world only by having their own nations. They realized that they might have to keep Africa’s indigenous political and cultural traditions under control using European model of the state (Middleton 126).

One of the primary forces of nationalism was education. African intellectuals questioned the racist concept of racial inferiority of the black people and appealed to the self-awareness of the nation. African intelligentsia tried to build national identity of the African people and replace the ‘old’ tribal identity, which was widespread through the continent. Spread of education significantly strengthened anti-colonial movement.

The redivision of the world during the World War I and II, inspired Africans to fight for their independence. They watched how the non-white Japanese fought with Europeans and Americans; they watched how other nations fought for independence; they were inspired by successful Indian independence movements in 1940s. In addition, colonialists used Africans as military force in the World Wars, which was a useful experience in the later struggle for independence. African soldiers, who took part in World War battles, had seen the higher standards of living in Europe. On their return they shared this experience with other Africans.

Apparently, African nationalists were inspired by successful struggle for independence of colonized Asian states and their nationalistic movements.

First African nationalist groups emerged in urban areas and comprised of people seeking for better life. The urbanization also played important role in the growth of African nationalism. Big cities attracted thousands people seeking for employment and this gave the chance to spread the idea of independence and nationalism among more and more Africans.

Later, nationalists’ groups grew into political parties and ethnic associations. The idea of African nationalism spread through trade and tribal relations as well. As result, Africans began to identify themselves with more broad categories (like Nigerian or Kenyan) rather than tribal categorization.

The objectives adopted by nationalists included social, economic and political development.

They strived to provide Africans with opportunities for education, health care, employment, and other necessities improved with nationhood (Middleton 127). Access to education furthered national self-identity and belief that white nations are not superior.

Next, large number of nationalists’ groups and associations caused political competition and furthered development of political culture of Africans.

An interesting point that was common to most nationalists is that they did not tolerate the opposition and significantly limited the freedom of the people. Most African leaders suppressed the opposition and adopted Soviet (authoritative) model of state governance. The most popular way to silence the opposition was the military one.

After the World War II, the superpowers (US and Soviet Union) were eager to extend their spheres of influence around the world. Therefore, they supported decolonization and Africa was in a special focus due to its undevelopment and enormous amounts of natural resources.

The superpowers provided financial and military support to the nationalists’ movements in Africa after the World War II. This factor played an important role in the decolonization of Africa and growth of African nationalism.

The movement for nationhood first gathered steam in North Africa, and in 1951 the former Italian colony of Libya won independence (Middleton 127).

According to the theory of socialism private property and individual freedom corrupt people and they are responsible for all the evil. This system challenges capitalism as system promoting inequality: class of capitalists exploit the workers class by paying the wages that only cover the costs of living, while workers produce much more value. This surplus value, appropriated by the capitalists, provokes social inequality and permanent class struggle between bourgeoisie and working class (Lipka, Sima 1003). Socialism theory offers to eliminate the private property in order to achieve equality and stop the class struggle.

African socialism is a kind of traditional socialism adjusted to the African leaders’ views. It emerged because African leaders sought for a socio-economic system different from hated capitalism promoted by European empires and from communism. The struggle of the classes in Africa was between colonialists and Africans. African leaders believed that their national socialism is different from traditional one as it was not the opposite theory of capitalism. However, African socialism brought no equality and prosperity to the countries adopted it.

Scientific Socialism is the term used by F. Engels to distinguish between utopian socialism and socialism theory proposed by K. Marx and F. Engels. Utopian socialism theory described perfect communist society, but it did not propose the way to achieve this ‘perfect condition’. Scientific socialism exposed capitalistic surplus gained from exploitation of the working class and prophesied the inevitability of capitalism’s collapse.

State Capitalism is a form of capitalism, wherein the surplus of capitalists is appropriated by the state. In other words, the state owns factories (productive forces) and exploits the workers by paying them less value than they produce. The state regulates and controls the economy. The state plays the role of employer and exploitation is justified by the fact it is done in the interest of the state.

The similarities between African socialism, state capitalism and scientific socialism are the following:

  • social equity and justice is the primary goal;
  • exploitation of the working class in the interest of the state;
  • state ownership;
  • absence of social classes (an utopian concept);
  • value surplus is appropriated by the state etc.

The differences between African socialism, state capitalism and scientific socialism are the following:

  • African socialism is based on democratic equality principles;
  • African socialism differs depending on the leader and may adopt concepts of dictatorship, democracy and other socio-economic theories.

As an example of African socialism failure we can take Tanzania. In 1964 the power was seized by Nyerere who proclaimed himself as a president and started social reforms. Nyerere enforced state control over production and reorganized agriculture by the means of collectivization. Nyerere’s plan supposed to create village communities that worked closely together, which in turn would encourage more advanced production methods, promote group production of crops, and provide more efficient access to education, health services, and drinking water. This plan failed and agriculture of Tanzania collapsed. The country was forced to import food and fell into debts (Middleton 83). Today Tanzania is one of the lease developed African countries.

Ethiopia was pronounced to be a social state in 1974 by General Tafari. This leader nationalized Ethiopian land. However, his successor Lieutenant Colonel Mengisu Haile Mariam turned the country to the communist one. The colonel created associations of the peasants to farm the countryside, but this initiative failed as well and caused serious famine in 1984 (Middleton 34). The country got stuck in internecine wars.

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