Context Research Presentation – What Makes Up the Three Worlds Theory? – Benjamin Eicholtz

For my Context Research Presentation I wanted to talk about what the Three Worlds Theory actually is because it was not discussed in detail, even though it was mentioned throughout Aijaz Ahmad’s section of reading. The Three World model is a way of classifying areas of the world, first made in the 1970’s during the Cold War. The First World were the capitalist nations, the Second being the communist, and the Third World being those that were either neutral or could not be put into either category. These Third World countries were mostly those that were previously colonized by either of the First or Second Worlds. While the first three categories were defined by political and economic status, the Third World seemed to be purely defined as those that were previously controlled by other nations. While there is an easy transition for either of the First or Second worlds to become the other by changing their politico-economic stance, there is no clear path for a ‘Third World’ country to become one of the others, which keeps itself defined as previously oppressed. This causes the country to be in large part ignored for its economic or cultural traits unlike the other two. While the original purpose of the Three World model was to define the two blocs that made up the Cold War, it in turn left out all of the other nations that did not have a large international presence at the time and in turn has caused them to be forgotten in a sense. Even after the Cold War has ended, the model is still taught to this day to define countries that either still do not have a large international presence or those that have been forgotten in our Euro-centric history classes. Ahmad suggests in his reading that we think of individual experiences instead of looking at “World” a story comes from to form a collective to form an idea of the human experience, and I would have to agree wholeheartedly.



30 thoughts on “Context Research Presentation – What Makes Up the Three Worlds Theory? – Benjamin Eicholtz

  1. Hi Benjamin! Thank you for this piece of context. I think knowing about the origins of a theory, especially one that has spawned terms that are commonly used, is incredibly important. I was particularly struck by this idea that the “third world” is simply a spillover category for all the places that didn’t conform to the definitions of either of the first two worlds. However, now this term carries such a connotation that neglects progress made since the theory’s inception. I think that the staticity of these terms is important in understanding how we view these places.

  2. Hi, Benjamin. I enjoyed reading your context presentation, as you brought up interesting points on the Three Worlds Theory. I also believe that we as a society tend to relate to individual experiences as opposed to thinking about “the whole picture” in a sense. This topic you’ve brought up from Ahmad’s essay reminds me of Adichie’s “The Danger of a Single Story” message. Similar to Ahmad, Adichie emphasizes that there is power in knowing the entire story instead of only what one has personally experienced. I believe that this common theme between their work truly empowers the importance of being able to view the whole “story”.

  3. Hey Benjamin! I thoroughly enjoyed what you wrote. The categorization of humans inside of a country based off of is inherently wrong and ties well together with our sections about the danger of a single story earlier in the year. I think it’s important to find another way to categorize countries that do not adhere to a capitalist or communist system. This three-world system does a poor job of showing the variety there is in our world.

  4. Hi Benjamin. This was super interesting to read and not something usually talked about on the day to day basis. I had no idea where the terms First, Second and Third World countries came from so that was super interesting to learn about. However, it is quite sad that Third World Countries get such a bad reputation just based on what the media portrays them as and what we have been taught at school. More education needs to be given about Three World countries overall because there is a lot of misinformation out there.

  5. Benjamin, I found this post very informative and helpful. In school, I was always under the impression that “third world” countries were poorer countries who were less advanced as first or second world countries. I was surprised to find out that these definitions were only based on what governmental systems were in place, not the economic status of a country. I think it’s very interesting how countries in the “third world” category have no way of changing their designation and therefore will continue to be defined by other countries that once controlled them. It is disappointing that countries are still looked down upon solely for not conforming to one of the governmental systems favored by powerful countries regardless of anything else.

  6. Hey Benjamin, your topic is very interesting to me. I enjoy the fact that you pointed out how the third world countries were forgotten. I found that touching because whenever I do any mission trips with my church, many times it is to those third world countries. One of the things I learned was, they may be poor and less educated but they are much more economical of the materials they have and much more thankful. I believe the reason for that is because since they had “nothing” when something does come to them they are struck that people do remember them and want to help. It is still sad how we have many third world countries that are poor and not just by the political view. I cannot say that I had much experience with their government, but what I do know is there is a lot of security to even get into a third world country. Why do you think that is?

    It is really interesting to me that todays society is still using those terms specifically.

  7. Hello Benjamin! Thank you for sharing information on a topic that intertwines with our reading this week. I think it is beneficial to gain this information to help us refrain from creating a biased opinion before, during, and after reading. It is important to understand the differences between the classifications of the three worlds. It is also important to recognize the connections between the misconceptions of these different classifications and single stories. Many times a country is introduced as a third world country, people already have a predetermined opinion on the financial status of that country and its placing in this hierarchy. By only focusing on the traits that are highlighted in the Three World’s Theory, we are ignoring the other possible stories and traits that give this country their identity and their contributions to the world as a whole.

  8. Hello Benjamin! You did a great job sharing the information about what third worlds really are. I had no idea that the theory of the third worlds came based off of government types such as that of democracy or communism. Previously, I had just though that a third world country was a lesser developed country in regards to societies view, but in fact it was based on a country that didn’t have a capitalist or communist nation.

  9. Hi Benjamin! I found your post to be quite helpful in providing some context for a very important aspect of Ahmad’s reading. I’ve often heard the term “Third World” countries used to describe developing nations, and had always assumed that was just the general term used to categorize nations that are currently under-developed. I didn’t realize that the criteria used to label “Third World” countries was actually based on their lack of a capitalistic or communistic economic system, which I found to be interesting. I think it’s strange how the term “Third World” still receives regular use even though the overall “Three Worlds” theory is no longer as prevalent as it initially was. I would argue that this is a perfect real-world example of de Beauvior’s One and the Other philosophy, as developed “First World” countries still use the term “Third World” in order to assert their superiority. In other words, describing countries as “Third World” results in their definition as the Other and allows “first world” countries to categorize themselves as the superior One.

  10. Hi Benjamin! I found your context reading presentation to be very interesting and insightful. It was easy to understand, making every point you mentioned helpful with understanding Ahmad’s reading. When I hear the term “third world” countries, I immediately assume less developed and less fortunate. However that is not the case. Nations considered “third world” can be just as developed as other nations and are placed into that category just because of their neutrality towards capitalism and communism. Third world countries struggle to become another world because of their lack in politico-economic systems. It is very intriguing to me that we still to this day, even years after the Cold War, use the three world terms to classify nations and express dominance.

  11. Hi Benjamin! Thank you for this insight on what actually makes up the Three World Theory. I did not know this information prior to your presentation. I think it is unfair to categorize countries with such guidelines. It especially has a large negative impact on the countries considered “Third World.” It is important to not view these countries through one lens but rather realize that their identity is composed of many unique parts.

  12. Hi Benjamin! Thank you for the context behind the Third World Theory. I find this theory to be reductive. “Third World” countries are defined by more than their colonial pasts. In Senegal, the singer Akon is currently creating AKONCITY, a new smart city that will use clean energy as a power source and use cryptocurrency as currency. The construction and completion of this city derails from the Third World narrative, and speaks of the unprecedented opportunity within countries in West Africa and the greater continent. This is just one example of many narrative violations that we will see in the coming decades!

  13. Hi Benjamin! While I had heard the terms “First World” and “Third World,” I did not know the full backstory behind the Three Worlds Theory. It was very enlightening to read your presentation because I now have a better understanding of this theory and the effects it has. I was unaware that the term “Third World” was simply a conglomeration of countries that didn’t fit one of two already set categories. While this theory seems like it would have been helpful during the Cold War, it seems like in the year 2021 the idea is far too outdated to still be used.

  14. Hey Benjamin, incredible job with the work I took a lot of information from it and was able to fully grasp the aspect of it. The third world theory does create a mysterious style and like a difficult theory to understand, it creates a type of ethnocentricity stated in Aijaz Ahmad explanation between other worlds. In a way, the overall aspect would be looking at the international point of views from different areas when thinking about the third world theory. Just as stated in the passage, “… I find it significant that First and Second Worlds are defined in terms of their production system … where the third category – the Third World – is defined purely in terms of an experience of externally inserted phenomenon”(pg 78). This proves the theory that is presented but there would always be a deeper aspect into it that we haven’t fully discovered. The way I see it when it comes to the third world theory it is caused by the political, environmental, and economic position each world is in, take, for example, Africa from dated back into history during the cold war was nations were considered neutral and independent that created a form of the third world. The way that almost everyone sees it from what I have seen is a high poverty rate, lack of resources, and unstable finances.

  15. Hi Benjamin, thanks for the post! It’s really interesting to see the background information about the three worlds made up during the cold world. That is very helpful to me to get more idea of what the three world model is. Actually, I was always thinking that the third world countries were in the category just because they were natural and didn’t want to take a side. It’s interesting that you point out the third countries can hardly change themselves into the other two worlds and the third world kind of gets ignored. This really gives me a new view of thinking about the reading and helps me to get a better understanding of it. Thanks, Benjamin.

  16. Hey Benjamin, I really like the post! The terms of “First World” and “Third World” countries have been something that I have heard over time but never really dove deeper into understanding how these countries became the way they are. One fact I found interesting was that third world countries were often colonized by first or second world countries. I had always thought third world countries formed out of a lack of exposure however that’s not true, thank you for your post!

  17. Hi Benjamin! This is an incredibly interesting read. I had no idea what first, second, and third world meant. The way third world countries were always described it seemed to be placing negative labels on the countries economic power, I never knew it was actually more to do with their government and history. This reminds me of our earlier discussions about a single story. When we are told about “third world countries”, it often lines up with countries in which we were only given one story about and it is almost always a negative one. It seems like these terms just further these negative stereotypes about a country and make it harder for them to shake those single stories, and it is unfortunate that they often get ignored as a result.

  18. Hi Benjamin! Nice work. You introduce a very interesting idea to me about what is ” Third world”. When I first time heard of ” Third world”, I think the third world should be defined as those countries that are poor and not so advance. I heard a lot about the first world and second world since those counties belong to those countries which are really powerful compare to other third world countries. But I don’t believe this third world system work very well since many countries are underestimated by this system and we should not use one story to define a country’s value that only rely on its economy and military power. But also from culture and people.

  19. Hey Benjamin, nice post and presentation. One thing that stood out to me was the definition of a Third World country. My parents came from Ethiopia, which is considered a Third World country by most people. I always thought Ethiopia was a Third World country because of its poor economy and lower quality of life but your post shed more light on the term for me. In my opinion, the term is not really adequate to fully describe a country though, as countries have more to offer than just money and military power such as its history and culture.

  20. Hello!
    While I’ve heard of First, Second, and Third world countries, it hasn’t been something I’ve been taught since possibly middle school (though this could be due to my primary concern being physics) but it was refreshing to understand where these terms came from. I find it very interesting how these things were not defined explicitly by economic status of the countries (which is what I’ve always assumed) but rather by political systems from years past. This was a very informing blog post for me.

  21. Benjamin,
    I have never considered the history behind these categories, or really put any thought into what they meant at all until now! I have always just thought of first world countries as major world players and third world counties as “developing.” Second world countries I believe to be countries that were in transition from third to first. Through your post I instead learned that third world countries are practically locked in a perpetual stage of “development” and don’t really make the transition like I had previously thought. Very insightful!

  22. Great post! I completely agree with your post and you described the three world theory very well. I think people live way in the past when they define third world countries. Many have growing economies and are thriving places to live. Hopefully the narrative changes soon.

  23. Benjamin, well done adding context to this discussion. As someone who made a discussion post first, this does help frame the idea Jameson had in the Ahmad story quite well. Having 3 buckets in which countries would be categorized based on economic identity but in reality, it was two that had economic identity differences and the 3rd was essentially another category if it did not fit 100% with the binary big two choices. This generalization is too vague to be useful and can cause dangers that were foreshadowed in the single-story video. By labeling a country based on the world type instead of knowing the full story outside of stereotype and generalization, it omits the necessary details to get the full story and context about a country that makes it unique from others.

  24. Great context presentation. Prior to reading this presentation I was quite unaware of the Three Worlds Theory, and more importantly, where it came from. I did not realize that it first appeared during the Cold War to identify countries political status. In this model the first world countries represented capitalist countries, second world represented communism, and the third were ones that were other. This model really ignores the third world countries in the way that their culture and other aspects of their nation are ignored. It is interesting because this is not what the model intended to do, but over time, it it what it became.

  25. Hi Benjamin!
    I found your presentation very interesting. Before this I actually never knew where this “world” terminology came from. I find it interesting that you actually don’t hear the terms first world and second world as often. This model does however ignore placing any value on third world countries, which is wrong considering they could have things of value to other countries for trade. Also, I never though about how humans are missing out on learning others culture if you’re country is not a first or second world.

  26. Whats up Benjamin!
    I thought you had a great presentation and you actually taught me things i never knew. Throughout my life, I have heard many times about “Third World Countries” and all of that, but it all sounded foreign to me. This is the first time I’ve been explained to on what it actually is. It seems that third world counties are at a disadvantage, and would be more wise to be either a first or second world country.

  27. Hi! Thank you so much!
    I think it’s great! It helps me understand how actually the “Three World System” is categorized and it is shocking to me that many people still use such categorization which I find very interesting. In my point of view, the definition should be based on the living quality of the citizens instead of merely the government type or where the country rank in the world!

  28. Very interesting!! This was very cool to read because even when I was reading Ahmed’s argument, I did not really know the distinction between the “Second” and “Third” world countries. Initially, I thought that it was based off of if the countries had been previously owned, rather than the government. I do not agree with Jameson’s terms; one term should not justify one country.

  29. Great sharing and summary. I understand the classification problem between the first world countries and the second world countries you mentioned. Because the classification between the two is not classified from the perspective of economy or sovereignty, but from the perspective of ideology. The first world countries represent the capitalist camp in the West, while the second world countries represent the socialist camp led by the Soviet Union in the east. As for the definition of the third world countries, it is actually a bit sad, because they are actually based on the colonization of the first and second world countries.And Jameson’s definition has loopholes, deviations, and even biases. That’s why we should understand the world more comprehensively by knowing more stories as you said.

  30. Hi, I like your paragraph. In my opinion, I think the classification is inevitable in the development of the society, since there is always some countries develop much faster than others, and start from human beings’ instinct, as there is difference, there will be discrimination. Moreover, many Eurpopean countries has accumulated much capital in early 1900s; therefore, many countries in Europe are what we called the “Fitst” countries, and they kept controlling the world trend since then.

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