You are on page 1of 3

What was the Third World?

In What was the Third World? Tomlinson describes what the
third world is and illustrates the efforts, mostly unsuccessful, made
to align these countries with the rest of the world. He discusses the
dangers of using one term to group such diverse countries and
critiques theories on how to develop these other countries.
The term Third World is generally used to describe Africa, Asia,
the Middle East, the Pacific islands, and Latin America. Tomlinson
quotes Peter Worsely saying that in the 1960s the Third World was
the world made up of the ex-colonial, newly-independent, non-aligned
countries. I find it so interesting that a term that now has such a
negative connotation never used to be attached to such cynicism.
Tomlinson informs us that the usage of the term Third World has
diminished greatly in the past years, which is an extremely positive
thing. Using the term Third World demonstrates our inability to see
our world as one, whole entity, which is half responsible for the large
discrepancy between countries. Another reason Tomlinson critiques use
of the term Third World is that the countries we group into this term
are so diverse. They differ in "size, political ideologies, social
structures, economic performance, cultural backgrounds, and historical
Over the course of the existence of a Third World, there have
been several theories of how to improve the disparity between

developing and developed countries. Tomlinson discusses the

modernization theory: that developing countries can be developed by
the same methods that currently developed countries used, with some
assistance. He pairs this theory opposite to the dependency theory: the
idea that resources are redirected from poorer countries to richer
countries as the poorer countries are integrated into the world
economy. He points out that both theories saw an important role for a
reformed state and other public institutions in bringing about economic
growth and social change. I tend to agree more with the dependency
theory as I have doubts that Third World countries can truly develop
under the hold that wealthier, usually Western, countries have on the
global economy.
Tomlinson describes three key issues of perception: differences
between the Third and other worlds, the consciousness of such
differences, and inter-connectedness. As a whole world, we need to
recognize the large disparity between less developed, developing, and
developed countries. We need to realize that the actions of some of the
First World countries are partly to blame. But, that doesnt mean
people cant work together to improve the Third World. Thirdworlded people are starting to align with subordinated others from the
First World, such as socialists, feminists, and ethnic minorities.
Fixing the Third World needs to do less with structural adjustment

and more with the empowerment of the people to achieve humancentered development.