Monday, July 04, 2005

How many worlds?

I keep hearing the expression The Third World.
It makes me want to ask, what or where are the
First World?
and who or what makes up the
Second World?
Why are the poorest countries referred to as The Third World, surely there is only one world?
We may have different life styles but we are all on the same earth, the same world in the same universe.
By saying we have different life styles, I`m not meaning that they should remain poor, far from it, but I`m wondering about our use of language in describing them.
Do the people in the poorer countries refer to us as the
First World?
In these days of political correctness, it seems very exclusive to use the term third world, when we do all live in one world. Surely there could be better expression, if one is needed at all.

1 comment:

Dave said...

The phrase comes from French demographer Alfred Sauvy, who is said to have coined tiers monde in 1952. The archaic tiers is used instead of the modern troisieme to suggest a parallel to tiers etat, the Third Estate, which came into currency during the French Revolution.

The Third World is thought to hold a position vis-a-vis the First and Second Worlds (the developed capitalist and Communist countries, respectively) comparable to that of the Third Estate (the commoners) with the First and Second Estates, i.e., the clergy and the nobility.

The expression was used at a conference of African and Asian countries in Bandung, Indonesia, in 1955 and was the title of a book published by Sauvy's associates in 1956. It became the title of a journal in 1959 and from there passed into general usage in France. Eventually it made the leap into English.

Whether it still makes sense is another matter, particularly with the decline of Communism (the Second World).