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First, Second and Third World

One World - Nations Online, n.d.

Worlds within the World?

The First, the Second, and the Third World.

When people talk about the poorest countries of the world, they often refer to them with the general term Third World, and they think everybody knows what they are talking about. But when you ask them if there is a Third World, what about a Second or a First World, you almost always get an evasive answer. Other people even try to use the terms as a ranking scheme for the state of development of countries, with the First world on top, followed by the Second world and so on, that's perfect—nonsense.

To close the gap of information you will find here explanations of the terms.

The use of the terms First, the Second, and the Third World is a rough, and it's safe to say, outdated model of the geopolitical world from the time of the cold war. There is no official definition of the first, second, and the third world. Below OWNO's explanation of the terms.

Four Worlds

After World War II the world split into two large geopolitical blocs and spheres of influence with contrary views on government and the politically correct society:

1—The bloc of democratic-industrial countries within the American influence sphere, the “First World”.

2—The Eastern bloc of the communist-socialist states, the “Second World”.

3—The remaining three-quarters of the world's population, states not aligned with either bloc were regarded as the “Third World.”

4—The term “Fourth World”, coined in the early 1970s by Shuswap Chief George Manuel, refers to widely unknown nations (cultural entities) of indigenous peoples, “First Nations” living within or across national state boundaries.

First there was the three worlds model

The origin of the terminology is unclear. In 1952 Alfred Sauvy, a French demographer, wrote an article in the French magazine L’Observateur which ended by comparing the Third World with the Third Estate: “ce Tiers Monde ignoré, exploité, méprisé comme le Tiers État” (this ignored Third World, exploited, scorned like the Third Estate). Other sources claim that Charles de Gaulle coined the term Third World, maybe de Gaulle only has quoted Sauvy. However…


First World
The term “First World” refers to so called developed, capitalist, industrial countries, roughly, a bloc of countries aligned with the United States after word war II, with more or less common political and economic interests: North America, Western Europe, Japan and Australia.
Second World
“Second World” refers to the former communist-socialist, industrial states, (formerly the Eastern bloc, the territory and sphere of influence of the Union of Soviet Socialists Republic) today: Russia, Eastern Europe (e.g., Poland) and some of the Turk States (e.g., Kazakhstan) as well as China.
Third World
“Third World” are all the other countries, today often used to roughly describe the developing countries of Africa, Asia and Latin America. The term Third World includes as well capitalist (e.g., Venezuela) and communist (e.g., North Korea) countries as very rich (e.g., Saudi Arabia) and very poor (e.g., Mali) countries.
Fourth World
The term “Fourth World” first came into use in 1974 with the publication of Shuswap Chief George Manuel's: The fourth world : an Indian reality (amazon link to the book), the term refers to nations (cultural entities, ethnic groups) of indigenous peoples living within or across state boundaries (nation states).

The three worlds model

[ Third World Map ]