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  • Worlds within the Third WorldAuthor(s): R. M. AutySource: Area, Vol. 11, No. 3 (1979), pp. 232-235Published by: The Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers)Stable URL: .Accessed: 16/06/2014 22:36

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  • Worlds within the Third World R. M. Auty, University of Lancaster

    Summary. A seven-fold subdivision of Third World countries is producedfrom a synthesis of earlier classifications. As modernization rates diverge, economic structure and strategy may replace population and physical resource base as the dominant criteria for classifi cation.

    The OPEC price rise of 1973 and the collapse of the 1972-4 commodity boom drew attention to the difference in the magnitude of the problems faced by the 120 or more countries hitherto frequently lumped together as constituents of the Third World. O'Connor (1976), in querying the utility of the concept of a

    Third World, has suggested that geographers ought to be capable of drawing out the differences among its constituent countries. Classification of Third

    World nations on the basis of physical growth constraints is one means of achieving this objective. Spatial structure offers one possible approach (Coutsinis and Paix, 1977; Johnson, 1970) and the interaction of population and physical resources provides another which is explored here.

    Shortly after the oil price rise an American business journal published a four-fold classification based on short-run balance of payments prospects, comprising ' rich-poor ', ' poor-poor ', ' poorer-poor ' and ' poorest-poor ' (Fortune 1975, p. 246). In similar vein Barbara Ward identified four groups on the basis of the export potential of their natural resources, including the desperately poor and embracing ' the whole of the Indian subcontinent, tropical

    Africa, the Caribbean and parts of Latin America' (The Economist May 18 1974, p. 70). These classifications are too crude and are rooted in balance of payments prospects, a fickle criterion given the volatility of commodity prices. A sounder foundation is provided by Myint (1964) in the form of a three-fold classification based on population size and pressure on physical resources. Table 1 is an elaboration of Myint's classification drawing upon more recent classificatory schemes.

    Myint makes a distinction between large ' overpopulated' countries, such as India, Indonesia and pre-secession Pakistan (category 7); small ' over populated' countries such as Jamaica and Sri Lanka (category 1); and ' under populated' countries, including all of Africa, mainland Latin America, the Middle East and peninsular southeast Asia. Myint considered the latter group of countries, apart from emerging giants such as Brazil and Mexico, to have national populations too small for domestic industrialization, making primary exports the most likely engine of economic growth. In contrast, the large Asian countries with only 200% of their population as yet urbanized face intense pressure on scarce rural land and should take advantage of their large aggregate domestic demand to industrialize as part of a balanced growth strategy. Myint viewed the prospects of the small overpopulated countries as bleakest since they combined intense rural population pressure with limited prospects for industrialization. The utility of this three-fold grouping finds some support in the evaluation of structural change in 60 developing countries 1950-70 under taken by Chenery and Serquin (1975) who recognize the following types of


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  • Worlds within the Third World 233

    Table 1. A classification of Third World countries

    Rural Primary export population range and

    Size pressure prospects Examples

    1. Small Overpopulated Narrow; Caribbean and Indian unfavourable Ocean islands

    2. Small Some pressure Narrow; Middle East favourable

    3. Small Some pressure Narrow; The Sahel unfavourable

    4. Small Underpopulated Diverse; Most of Tropical Africa moderate

    5. Medium Some pressure Narrow; The Mahgreb, S.E. Asia favourable

    6. Medium Underpopulated Diverse; South Africa, Nigeria, favourable Peru

    7. Large Overpopulated Diverse; South Asia, China varying

    country: large (over 1 5m. people in 1960); small industrializing (nations deficient in land resources); and small primary export.

    Since the greatest number of Third World countries fall into Myint's ' under populated' category (which broadly overlaps with the small primary export class of Chenery and Serquin), this provides the focus for the elaboration of his scheme shown in Table 1. A recent classification by Beier et al. (1976) based on population and resources uses the level of urbanization to provide a finer subdivision of types of rural land-use pressure. The large ' overpopulated '

    country is picked out in this system and characterized as having a low level of urbanization and intense pressure on rural land: the low-income countries of South Asia are cited as examples. The remaining three types of country recog nized by Beier et al. make a useful subdivision of Myint's group of 'under populated' countries:

    1. Countries with over half their population urbanized and no pressure on their ample rural land resources: the relatively high-income countries of South America comprise this group (category 6 embraces most of this subdivision).

    2. Countries whose level of urbanization is about a generation behind the above group and which also face distinct population pressure on rural land. The medium-income, medium-sized countries of the Mahgreb and peninsular southeast Asia are placed in this group by Beier et al. (category 5).

    3. Countries with overwhelmingly rural populations which face little pressure on rural land resources: the low-income states of sub-Saharan Africa are characteristic of this group (category 4 includes most of this subdivision).

    Myint's small ' overpopulated ' country is not identified as a distinct category by Beier et al. and this is a mistake, since there is ample evidence in the literature of its identification as a special case (Demas, 1965; Dwyer, 1965); hence the retention of this group in Table 1.

    Beier et al. have followed the common practice of grouping countries according to broad cultural zones which are also regarded as corresponding to

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  • 234 Worlds within the Third World

    per capita income levels and are virtually synonymous with physical units of

    continental and subcontinental dimensions. One important work, the Second Report of the Club of Rome (Mesarovic and Pestel, 1974), makes exclusive use

    of such cultural groupings for the units comprising the developing countries in its world model, recognizing Latin America, sub-Saharan Africa, the Arab

    world, South Asia, and China. While this system of classification has much utility (Berry, 1960; Leontief et al., 1977), and may draw attention to cultural

    dynamics vital to the modernization process (Geertz, 1969), a finer classification is possible with only a slight relaxation of the criterion of retaining cultural homogeneity within groups.

    A further criterion for subdivision is primary export potential. This tends to be of particular significance for the smaller countries since small populations are often associated with small land areas and consequently a diminished probability of possessing a diversified resource base. Moreover, a narrow but favourable resource endowment generates revenues for small nations capable of imparting high per capita benefits. Even before the oil price rise Higgins (1968) had developed a model of growth with surplus capital with reference to

    Libya which now applies to an important set of countries with a narrow, but rich primary export base (category 2), ranging among the small countries from

    Bahrain to Saudi Arabia. Category 3, countries with a narrow, unfavourable

    resource base, includes small nations (like those of the Sahel, such as Chad and Upper Volta) with low unreliable rainfall and 90% of their workforce engaged in low-productivity agriculture. In building a model of the world economy, Leontief et al. (1977) recognize categories 2, 3 and 4 in Africa and

    make a separate subdivision for the relatively prosperous and diversified medium-sized country of South Africa. This same model uses per capita income to subdivide Latin Ame


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