Discussion: Can we really speak of a disappearance of the ‘Third World’?
Yes and no! Yes, in that this ensemble has unquestionably exploded. If China belonged to the ‘Third World’ until the 1980s, it is no longer reasonably possible to support such an idea at a time when the Middle Empire considerably obstructs American domination (something the USSR had never managed to do). No, in that there still subsists a huge gap and relations of dependence and domination between a large number of poor countries and the former tutelary powers. We therefore do not share the conclusions of all those who have constructed or propagate the graph 3.7 that we have taken up above and who use it to praise ‘happy globalization’, the ‘victory of capitalism and the free market’, etc. We do not share the conclusions of all those who have constructed or propagate graph 3.7 that we have taken up above, and who use it to praise ‘happy globalization’, the ‘victory of capitalism and the free market’, etc. : “The poorest countries have caught up and income inequality in the world has decreased” (Max Roser); “There is no gap between the West and the rest, between developed and developing countries, between rich and poor” (Hans Rosling) ; “The world is no longer divided between the West and the rest” (Bill Gates); “Income inequality is no longer a question of cleavage between nations or regions of the world, but rather between social groups within the world population as a whole” (Duncan Green). Such conclusions are illegitimate and are in part deviously suggested by the way the graph represents the data. They are illegitimate because the graph does not accurately reflect the opposition between developed countries and the ‘Third World’, since Northern countries such as Australia, New Zealand and Japan are included in the ‘Asia + Pacific’ group, while the Americas include the United States and Canada, but also Haiti and Belize! But these erroneous conclusions are also insidiously suggested by the choice of the logarithmic scale, which squeezes the incomes of the rich into the same visual space as the incomes of the poor. Indeed, if we use an arithmetic scale, most of the world’s population is squeezed to the far left, while the rich spread out long on the right. If we have nevertheless retained this graph, despite the strong criticisms we may make of it, it is because it shows us the dynamic of relative tightening between income levels in the world that has been taking place for more than four decades and that is largely underestimated by more than one critic of capitalism.