First second third worlds map

The three worlds as they were separated during the Cold War era, each with its respective allies. In blue, the First World, i.e. the United States and its allies. In red, the Second World, i.e. the Soviet Union and its allies. In green, the Third World, i.e. the non-aligned and neutral countries.

The term "first world" refers to countries that are democracies, which are technologically advanced, and whose citizens have a high standard of living.

The terms First World, Second World, and Third World were used to divide the nations of Earth into three broad categories. The three terms did not arise simultaneously. After World War II, people began to speak of the NATO and Warsaw Pact countries as two major blocs, often using such terms as the "Western Bloc" and the "Eastern Bloc". The two "worlds" were not numbered. It was eventually pointed out that there were a great many countries that fit into neither category, and in 1952 French demographer Alfred Sauvy coined the term "Third World" to describe this latter group; retroactively, the first two groups came to be known as the "First World" and "Second World".

There were a number of countries that did not fit comfortably into this neat definition of partition, including Switzerland, Sweden, and the Republic of Ireland, who chose to be neutral. Finland was under the Soviet Union's sphere of influence but was not communist, nor was it a member of the Warsaw Pact. Yugoslavia adopted a policy of neutrality, and was a founding member of the Non-Aligned Movement. Austria was under the United States' sphere of influence, but in 1955, when the country became a fully independent republic, it did so under the condition that it remain neutral. Turkey and Greece, both of which joined NATO in 1952, were not predominantly in Western Europe. Spain did not join NATO until 1982, towards the end of the Cold War and after the death of the authoritarian dictator Francisco Franco.

UN Human Development Report 2007

The three worlds today.

In recent years, as many "developing" countries have industrialised, the term Fourth World has been coined to refer to countries that have "lagged behind" and still lack industrial infrastructure. In contrast, countries that were previously considered developing countries and that now have a more advanced economy, yet not fully developed, are grouped under the term Newly-industrialised countries or NIC.

Some nations have developed their own classification scheme consisting of the "Third World" and the "Two-Thirds World". This system is similar to the former in that it also reflects economic status or behaviour. In terms of material resources, the "Third World" takes just one third of the pie, while the "Two-Thirds World" takes two-thirds of the pie.

See also

Adapted from the Wikipedia article, "First World", used under the GNU Free Documentation License.

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