General Question

workaholic's avatar

Is the term "third world" no longer PC in any context?

Asked by workaholic (194points) June 30th, 2010

And are “developing” country and “underdeveloped” country the only terms used (meaning different levels of development..) ?

Observing members: 0 Composing members: 0

25 Answers

Lightlyseared's avatar

It’s out dated more than anything. It doesn’t really give you a clear idea of what it means and is open to abuse.

plethora's avatar

@Lightlyseared what kind of abuse?

lilikoi's avatar

Maybe 10 years ago, I was taught the term ‘3rd world’ was not politically correct. I think it is both PC and outdated. “Developing country” is the term of choice now as far as I know. I don’t like the term “underdeveloped” because it implies that “developed” is superior.

Anonymoususer's avatar

Third World originally (1950’s and 60’s) refered to countries outside both NATO (“First World”) and the Warsaw Pact (“Second World”). This places turn high-developed countries as Austria, Sweden and Switzewrland into Third World, as they joined no military alliance during the Cold War.

plethora's avatar

Third World is not politically correct? Damn, that’s a great reason to use it. And, for sure, we don’t want to imply anything at all is either superior or inferior. Apparently the President of Nigeria is not on board with that idea, as he thinks his soccer team is inferior enough to be barred from playing competitively for the next two years.

JLeslie's avatar

I had no idea. I still use the term. Well, maybe I won’t anymore. Do we still use industrialized nations for first world? I never heard of using developed country, but I do use devoling country synonomously with third world. Developed country sounds awful, I don’t think I have ever heard it used.

CaptainHarley's avatar

Who gives a crap if it’s PC or Not PC? PC sucks; aways has, always will. The sooner America gets over this obsession with being “politically correct,” and with worrying about people’s feelings, the better off we’ll be.

Sorry people, but your feelings aren’t protected by the Constitution. They are not mentioned in the Declaration of Independence, nor are they in the Bill of Rights. If you choose to wear yours on your sleeve, have at it. Just don’t try to foist your “politicall correctness” off on everyone else as something they need to be concerned about.

JLeslie's avatar

@CaptainHarley I am fed up with PC and people being so easily offended also. But, I find this interesting, because my sister-in-law has voiced to me that she doesn’t like that her country, Mexico, is referred to as a third world country. I never thought it might be a general feeling amomg many people that it is offensive. Keep in mind she calls Dom Rep a Banana Republic and has used 5th world when talking about it. She lived there for a few years.

jrpowell's avatar

It hasn’t been PC for a long time. In school we were taught to say Least Developed Countries. Here is a list of ones. And Mexico is in no way a “third world” country.

JLeslie's avatar

@johnpowell What do you call Mexico? Generally I don’t call it anythng, I just call it Mexico, but I wonder what you consider it? Is it right up there with the USA?

plethora's avatar

@CaptainHarley Fabulous response!!!

@johnpowell You believe what you were taught in school? Our public school system is the birthplace of the whole PC idiocy. Get over it and come into the real world.

CaptainHarley's avatar


Thanks! My tolerance for BS and PC decreases as an inverse square the older I get! : ))

CaptainHarley's avatar


BTW… that tirade wasn’t directed at you. I just get too fed up at times to hold it in! Heh!

JLeslie's avatar

@CaptainHarley I did not take it personally at all, I was just agreeing with you, and adding my own story. :) Thanks for saying something though.

PandaMonium's avatar

In my Human Geography class, we used Rostow’s Model for measing Economic Development. I had to google it to jog back my memory. If you want heres the page I found We were also taught that third world country was no longer used but I don’t see the harm in that term.

Mamradpivo's avatar

The notion of a third world depended on there being a first and second world. With the fall of the Soviet Union and rapid economic development in former second world countries (think Brazil, Russia, India, China, Eastern Europe, Philippines, Malaysia, etc), many people in those countries (though far from all or most) lead lives as free and as well-off as those in the first world.

I think stages of development, similar to the Rostow model that @PandaMonium mentioned, make more sense to describe the world today.

kfingerman's avatar

One currently vogue term is “Least Developed Countries.”
More strange still, is that in most lefty and international development circles I run in prefer the term “Global South.” This is generally used to mean those poorer countries that would have fallen into the category of “third world” – most of which are farther South. The strangest thing with this is that it means that the likes of Austrailia and New Zealand are part of the Global North, which seems like a strange bit of rhetoric to me.

jrpowell's avatar

@plethora :: By school I meant a bachelors degree in economics from a university. Some of us went on to work for large banks, government, and international organizations. Terminology is important.

jrpowell's avatar

@JLeslie :: Pretty much. The cities have reliable power and water. And the roads between the cities are pretty damn good. Microsoft decided the infrastructure was good enough to make XBOX’s there. They would never make them in Rwanda since the roads are shit and the electricity is spotty.

JLeslie's avatar

@kfingerman Global South. I have never heard that term. I guess we do use “south” to mean things are going badly. forget about the idea that even in the US some people think of our south as being behind the times and backwards. I guess Australia is like southeast FL, south but northern. Meanwhile, I think it is a terrible term, global south.

@johnpowell I guess I just think there is so much poverty, and average education levels are still very low, but what you say is true in the cities. When my sister-in-law lived in Dom Rep her power went out every day.

plethora's avatar

@johnpowell If we are talking bachelor’s and/or master’s level in economics, one should be even more suspicious.. Academia is the bastion of PC thought.

JLeslie's avatar

@plethora What does bastion mean in your sentence? I am not familiar with the word, and looking it up has not really helped me. Thanks

plethora's avatar

@JLeslie You scared me. I occasionally pop words out and then wonder if I got it right. In this case, I did.

bastion: An institution, place, or person strongly maintaining particular principles, attitudes, or activities: as in “cricket’s last bastion of discrimination”

JLeslie's avatar

@plethora LOL. Don’t be nervous, haha, I wanted to be sure I understood the intent of what you wrote. I don’t blame Academia. I do think that educated people generally have more experience and understanding for people who might feel discriminated against, and so those people might want to be more careful to not offend. And, interestingly, the people I find to be most easily offended are those without an education. They seem to be more reactive in my experience, less willing to hear an explanation of what a speaker intended when he said something that might be consider not PC, more likely to jump to an assumption of prejudice and bigotry.

plethora's avatar

@JLeslie I would agree with you in general, but would draw a distinction between “educated” and “academia”. Degrees do not an education make (and I have a couple of them). Degrees are obtained in academia, but an education must be found elsewhere.

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