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Third World, First World, Which World?

I N F O R M A T I O N A L
27 September 2003

Have you ever wondered what constitutes the designation of third, second, and first world status? For nearly four decades, we have listened to newscasts and television programs, read of it in newspapers, and discussed it among ourselves, and still many of us do not truly understand these terms, no less the new one as of recent-a fourth world status.

By definition, a first world nation is one that is industrialized, capitalistic, and democratic, such as the United States and Great Britain. Second World status is bestowed on nations that are communistic both economically and politically. The third world status is given to nations that are not politically aligned with Communism or Socialism. These are usually smaller nations that are weak industrially.

The third, second, and first world designation were created during the Cold War era when the former Soviet Union commonly worked to commandeer smaller, less self sufficient countries. A fourth world designation has recently been suggested for those nations that are capable of economic development.

"The countries of the Third World, containing some two-thirds of the world's population, are located in Latin America, Africa, and Asia. Politically, they are generally nonaligned (see Nonaligned Nations). Some are moving out of their previous situation and may soon join the ranks of industrialized countries. Others, with economies considered intrinsically incapable of development, are at times lumped together as forming a 'fourth world'" (THIRD WORLD, Sergio Barzanti, Microsoft® Encarta® 98 Encyclopedia. © 1993-1997 Microsoft Corporation. (Colombo)

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Allan B. Colombo
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