The term ‘Third World’ refers to a group of countries with certain common features. According to some writers the developed capitalist countries constitute the first world. The socialist countries are called the second world. The underdeveloped countries in Africa. Asia and Latin American that were subjected to colonial domination are called the third world. Some writers categorize the superpowers as the first world. The other developed countries like UK, Germany, Australia and Can& are clubbed together as the second world. The third world consists of underdeveloped countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America. Both definitions have a few things in common. In both classifications the attributes of the third world are one and the same. The third world is defined in both the classifications in relation to the developed countries.

The Third World Countries are economically poor and they have a colonial past .In the course of identifying the common features of the Third World one should not ignore variations among them. Some third world countries like the Arab countries are very rich while the others like Bangladesh are very poor. There are countries with Democratic institutions. On the other hand some of the world countries are ruled by military regimes. There are also differences amount the third world countries in terms of social formations ranging from tribal societies to capitalist societies. In spite of all these differences, the third world is not a meaningless category because it helps us in grouping together countries that came into being by fighting against the colonial domination. They all encounter similar problems because of their background. Hence, it is useful to study the third world keeping in mind both similarities and dissimilarities without exaggerating one to eliminate the other. There are certain general characteristics that the state in the Third World has acquired which may be attributed largely to the fact that they have been colonized and that colonialism has introduced certain fundamental changes in their societies.


There are several theoretical fworks for studying the states of the third world.
Among them most significant and popular works are the liberal and Marxist
Work of the third world war

Liberal work
The liberals argue that the state is a neutral agency and acts as an arbiter between the Contending groups in the society. In other words no group has a privileged access to state. Different groups in the society make their demands on the political system. The state agencies consider all these demands and take decisions in the general interest-of the society. Within the fold of liberalism some writers-propose the state agencies are dominated by the elite groups. Elite groups exercise domination by virtue of certain personal attributes not due to the control over economic resources. Liberal theory holds that in a democracy elite groups do not use power in their personal or group interests. The liberal approach has two lapses. In the first instance it refuses to recognize that political capacity of individuals is decided by their economic resources. Secondly it fails to explain how elite groups work for the entire society rising above their narrow economic and social interests.

Marxist work

Marx and English argued that states is neither an impartial agency nor a common trustee. It expresses the interests of the dominant classes to protect their interests. In other words it is an instrument in the hands of the dominant classes. The state follows society but does not precede it. The nature of the state depends upon the character of the division of labor in the society. Unfortunately, Marx has not written elaborately on the state. He made sketchy remarks. The followers of Man have written extensively about the state. However most of these writings deal with the developed capitalist countries. These explanations are not valid for the third world which are different from the capitalist countries. The third world countries have a colonial past.

The third world countries were subjected to colonial exploitation that disturbed the course of development and brought about lopsided development. The domination of the third world by the imperialist powers continued even after decolonization. There is no unanimity amount writers about the nature of relationship between developed western countries and the third world.

Dependency Theory

Some writers who propounded the dependency theory argue that the third world countries do not enjoy political freedom and continue to be dominated by the imperialist powers. According to these writers the world is integrated into a single capitalist system. The developed western countries constitute the core of the world system. During the colonial periods, the third world countries were shaped by the imperialist countries to suit their requirements. Due to this process, the third world is structurally integrated with the economies of the developed countries and is dependent on the developed countries. In world capitalism the third world survives as an adjunct of the core also known as metropolis and lies on the periphery of world capitalism. In this model the third world state is an instrument in the hands of the metropolitan capital.

The third world state is also analyzed in terms of its relationship with the dominant classes. Most of the writers on the third world argue that the state has autonomy from the ruling classes that is delimited by the social structure. Due to certain historical personalities, the third world state has acquired another distinct character. The colonial rulers have a created a highly centralized state machinery to 4 maintain their domination over the colonized. The state machinery is thus imposed from above and it has not evolved out of the internal social dynamics. Hence the third world state is not in tune with society, it is either advanced or over developed when compared with society at large. After taking a look at the third world from various angles one may say that the third world state is an over-developed, post-colonial state, with autonomy from the ruling classes. In other words, it is a product of a complex social formation of the third world.

Conceptual Clarifications

The terms of poverty, inequality, third world countries and underdevelopment need proper conceptualization in this study

As a multi-dimensional phenomenon, poverty has no universal accepted definition. However, Aluko (1975) views poverty as “a lack of command over basic consumption needs”, which means that there is an inadequate level of consumption giving rise to insufficient food, clothing or shelter, and moreover, the lack of certain capacities such as being able to participate with dignity in society. Quoting Alimeka in Ndelifera, (2007), Genyi (2007:10) agrees that: Poverty has various manifestations including lack of income and productivity resources sufficient to ensure sustainable livelihoods, hunger and malnutrition, ill-health, limited or lack of access to education and other basic services, increase morbidity from illness, homelessness and inadequate housing, unsafe environment. Social discrimination and exclusion. It is also characterized by a lack of participation in decision and in civil, social and cultural life

There is relative and absolute poverty, sees absolute poverty as a situation where levels of income are insufficient to provide the basic necessities of life, while relative poverty is a situation where an individual or region appears to have more than others in absolute poverty, yet has less than others in terms of income, property and other resources.

Inequality in this context refers to an unequal distribution of benefits and losses under the uneven process of a globalized world. This is not to say that inequality does not exist within states. In fact, that is where it starts. This imbalance leads to polarization between the few countries and groups that gain, and the many countries and groups in society that loose out or are marginalized. Globalization, polarization, wealth concentration and marginalization are therefore linked through the same process It is of note that in the said process, investment resources, growth and modern technology are directed to a few countries (mainly in North America, Europe, Japan and East Asian Newly industrializing countries). Pathetically, majority of developing countries are excluded from the process, or are participating in it in marginal ways that are often detrimental to their interests.

Third World Countries
These are also referred to as countries of the Southern hemisphere or developing countries. Included here are countries from the continents of Africa, Asia and Latin America.

According to Dirk and Nobert (2003): Third World Countries are countries at the „periphery‟ of the world economy and produce mainly agrarian and mineral raw materials for industrialized states under mostly negative terms of trade. Furthermore, as a result of high population growth and rural-urban migration, many of these countries have increasing number of marginalized sections of the population which have specific settlement patterns and living conditions.

According to Worseley (1987: viii): The modes of first, second and third worlds are concepts that were first forged in the 1950s and now need rethinking as such categories are not immutable. Their value lies, rather, in their heuristic capacity to help us make sense of what is happening in the world.

However, at a point in time there was growing rapprochement between the industrialized super-powers, the one capitalist, the other communist (the USA and then USSR), which changed the relationship between the First and Second Worlds. There was therefore in existence, a plurality of communisms, exemplified in the Soviet black in the form of „polycentric‟ tendencies of various East European countries to assert their own identities, despite successive repressions in Eastern Europe. But it is important to note that none of the models of three „world‟ is definitive or entirely satisfactory, for they seek to capture a reality that contains at least two major dichotomies: developed and underdeveloped, on the one hand and capitalist and communist on the other.

According to the Chinese (Peking 1974): The First World is that of the superpowers; the Second that of the developed countries; and the Third, the underdeveloped countries.


Continued – Part II