From the Third World to the International South


The time period ‘International South’ just isn’t an uncontroversial one. There have been many debates in the previous couple of a long time relating to its usefulness, each analytical and historic, however particularly its connection to a different equally debated time period, ‘Third World.’ Within the midst of those debates, nevertheless, there has appeared a unfastened consensus round their that means and their linkages. I’ll try and elucidate right here the that means and histories of each phrases, and the connections and ruptures between them. To take action, I might be drawing on the work of a number of Marxist intellectuals, akin to L.S. Stavrianos and Vijay Prashad, amongst others. It have to be emphasised, nevertheless, that the time period International South can’t be thought of individually from that of the Third World. I argue that the concept of International South couldn’t have emerged with out taking critically the conceptual work executed by the time period Third World, and certainly with out the legacy left by Third Worldism and its historic landmarks. The dialogue under devotes vital area to understanding not solely the emergence of the time period Third World, however particularly the central function performed by processes of capitalist enlargement to conceptualizing each Third World and International South, albeit in several methods and at completely different historic junctures.

The nice victory of the Vietnamese individuals at Dien Bien Phu is now not strictly talking a Vietnamese victory. From July 1954 onward the colonial peoples have been asking themselves: “What should we do to realize a Dien Bien Phu? How ought to we go about it?” A Dien Bien Phu was now inside attain of each colonized topic. – Frantz Fanon.

In his now traditional work International Rift, L.S. Stavrianos (1981: 35-36) argues that ‘[t]he abroad enlargement of European capitalism resulted within the emergence of the Third World by way of the operation of imperialism.’ That is, in fact, an argument that pulls on a wealthy Marxist custom summarized by Karl Marx’ well-known dictum (articulated in his Grundrisse), in accordance with which capital by its nature has to drive past each spatial barrier and conquer the entire earth for its market.Each Rosa Luxemburg’s The Accumulation of Capital (1913) and Lenin’s Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism (1917) expanded on this concept. Luxemburg acknowledged that capitalism wanted to increase in new areas of the world untouched by capitalist types of manufacturing, searching for pure assets, new markets, and (low-cost or free) labour. Alex Callinicos (2002: 321) claims that Luxemburg inaugurated a Marxist custom that examines the hyperlink between capitalist enlargement and the violent domination and exploitation of the International South. Stavrianos attracts on this custom of Marxist thought, which highlights that the very creation of the Third World is intimately related to processes of capitalist enlargement through colonial conquest, in different phrases, to processes of underdevelopment. The notions of ‘underdevelopment’ and ‘overdevelopment’ are essential to understanding Stavrianos’ conception of the Third World. He doesn’t see them as separate, particular person and discrete phenomena, reasonably they’re tied collectively inseparably: Western nations are overdeveloped to the diploma that Third World nations are underdeveloped (Stavrianos 1981: 35).

Right here, Walter Rodney’s work on processes of underdevelopment in Africa is very pertinent: Rodney (1972) states that underdevelopment just isn’t a product of inside components of Third World societies, however reasonably the direct consequence of processes of capitalist enlargement, and of the mixing of those societies throughout the capitalist world system. The creation of the Third World was not merely about colonial conquest and incorporating these territories into European colonial empires. Reasonably (and particularly), it had additionally to do with their lively ‘underdevelopment’ by the colonial metropole by way of the extraction of uncooked pure assets and labour for the unique good thing about the metropole, and with devastating penalties for native economies, polities and societies. I perceive ‘underdevelopment’ right here in the best way articulated by dependency theorist A.G. Frank (1969) in his now traditional piece ‘The Growth of Underdevelopment.’ Right here, Frank identifies underdevelopment as a aware political motion by the colonial metropole whereby assets belonging to the colonial society/periphery are being extracted and used, however utilized in a method which advantages dominant states and never the poorer states by which the assets are discovered. In that sense, in accordance with dependency idea, Third World nations will not be ‘behind’ or in want of ‘catching up’ to the richer nations of the world. They aren’t poor as a result of they lagged behind the scientific transformations or lacked the Enlightenment values of the European states. They’re poor as a result of they had been coercively built-in into the European financial system solely as producers of uncooked supplies or to function repositories of low-cost labour, and had been thus denied the chance to market their assets in any method that competed with dominant states.

It can’t be emphasised sufficient thus that the concept of Third World is inseparable from the emergence of worldwide capitalism through colonial conquest and exploitation. The combination of colonial societies into capitalist circuits has completely modified and restructured native economies with great penalties each for the quick time period and, extra importantly, for the long run. Right here the concept of underdevelopment is essential as a result of it throws gentle on processes of exploitation and dependence which have begun a few centuries in the past, and are nonetheless very a lot ongoing. Stavrianos (1981: 39) notes, as an illustration, that one of many distinguishing options of the Third World is the concept of ‘financial progress with out financial growth’, which refers to ‘progress decided by overseas capital and overseas markets reasonably than by native wants.’ His definition of the Third World is illuminating: it’s not a set of nations or statistics, however reasonably ‘a set of relationships – unequal relationships between controlling metropolitan facilities and dependent peripheral areas, whether or not colonies as prior to now or neocolonial “impartial” states as at present’ (Stavrianos 1981: 40). To summarize, the concept of Third World is unthinkable with out world capitalism and the rise of worldwide hierarchies and inequality it produced. Right here Marxist scholarship has made a useful contribution by exploring in depth the dual roots of colonial conquest and capitalist enlargement behind the concept of Third World (see James 1938, Du Bois 1947, Rodney 1972, Amin 1976, Wallerstein 1989, Wolf 2010, Davis 2001, Anievas and Nisançioglu 2015). It has additionally introduced ahead the concept we can’t suppose and converse of points akin to poverty, battle and battle, environmental degradation and political corruption within the Third World/International South outdoors of the worldwide constructions that produce and situation these phenomena (see Tsing 2005, Tilley 2020).

I wish to complicate, nevertheless, our understanding of the concept of Third World: this concept grew to become a referent not just for a set of worldwide relations of dependence and inequality, but additionally for 1) a worldwide venture premised on a sure widespread historical past of colonial domination and exploitation (loosely recognized with the Bandung spirit and the emergence of non-alignment); 2) an ideological orientation that began with struggles of decolonization and that acquired world dimensions, whose heyday had been the 1960s and 1970s (the so referred to as ‘lengthy 1960s’), often called Third Worldism (see Sajed 2019). The previous finds its conceptualization in Vijay Prashad’s work The Darker Nations, the place he claims that ‘The Third World was not a spot. It was a venture’ (2007: xv). Prashad places forth the concept of a Third World venture to confer with the emergence of a typical ideology and a set of establishments that encapsulated its values and targets.

Arguably its best-known landmark is the Bandung conference, which occurred in Bandung, Indonesia in April 1955, bringing collectively delegates from twenty-nine nations in Africa and Asia, representing both not too long ago impartial nations or those who had been within the midst of nationwide liberation struggles. Bandung is related to the creation of a Third World bloc, that’s with a worldwide venture that produced a ‘transcontinental political consciousness in Africa and Asia’ (Younger 2001: 191). Within the phrases of Quynh N. Pham and Robbie Shilliam (2016: 6), ‘[t]he Bandung Convention is outstanding insofar because it supplied the primary diplomatic area in 20th century worldwide relations that promised an intimacy amongst colonized and postcolonized peoples.’ One of many penalties of the convention was, as Vijay Prashad (2007: 41) observes, the creation of a United Nations bloc that may convey collectively representatives from Africa, Asia, and later Latin America and dominate the Common Meeting for many years to return. One other vital legacy of Bandung was the articulation of an financial different for the Third World that was meant to offer a unique path to growth to that imposed by the dominant capitalist mannequin. The UNCTAD (the United Nations Convention on Commerce and Growth), established in 1964, is the direct product of Bandung, and emphasizes engagement in commerce and growth by the Third World on an equitable foundation.

The Third World venture was thus a collective try to ascertain political and financial sovereignty for the previous colonial world. The venture would discover a clearer articulation in 1966, in Havana, Cuba, on the First Solidarity Convention of the Peoples of Africa, Asia, Latin America, also referred to as the Tricontinental Convention, attended by greater than 500 delegates from 82 nations. The resolutions adopted on the convention articulated an anti-imperialist platform for Third World nations towards the aggressive overseas coverage of the US and its allies. One of many legacies of the convention can be the venture of a New Worldwide Financial Order (NIEO), which emerged within the 1970s as a proposed different to the exploitative capitalist system that dominated the worldwide political financial system.

The concept of NIEO was introduced forth by the nations from the Non-Aligned Motion (NAM) as a option to redress the dire inequalities of the worldwide commerce system. The initiative could be dated to the 1973 NAM convention in Algiers, the place calls for for extra equitable financial insurance policies for Third World nations can be put collectively formally and later forwarded for consideration to the Common Meeting on the UN (Cox 1979, Prashad 2012, Anghie 2019). As Anthony Anghie (2019: 432) notes, the precept of ‘everlasting sovereignty over pure assets’ was one of many core rules animating NIEO as a result of it could enable Third World nations absolute financial sovereignty over the use and/or preservation of pure assets inside their borders. It will thus not solely enable them autonomy over the usage of assets, but additionally defend them towards predatory practices and pursuits of multinational companies. Certainly, Greg Grandin (2019) argues it was Latin America that pioneered the concept of sovereignty over pure assets, thought which was formally adopted by the UN in 1962: ‘In its 1917 structure, Mexico was the primary nation on the planet to undertake the precept that absolute sovereignty over pure assets belongs to the state.’ Sadly, the factors on the agenda of NIEO would by no means be realized: oil crises, the heavy indebtedness of Third World nations through devastating mortgage situations, and constant and lively efforts by Western nations to cease and counteract this initiative would successfully cease the agenda of NIEO (see Stavrianos 1981, Prashad 2012, Anghie 2019).

It’s thus the failure of the NIEO (and by failure, I imply the lively efforts by Western pursuits to forestall this agenda from being applied) that alerts the demise of the Third World venture, and the emergence of what Vijay Prashad (2012: 5) calls ‘a brand new geography of manufacturing.’ By the latter, he understands each the ‘disarticulation of Northern Fordism’ but additionally the rise of latest applied sciences (satellite tv for pc, communication/web, containerization of ships) that re-structured dramatically world commerce and manufacturing (ibid.). One well-known facet of that is the relocation of manufacturing processes from the First to the Third World, thus permitting companies to benefit from wage differentials and of considerably fewer restrictions on environmental and labour requirements. Prashad (2012) thus sees the concept of the International South as related to the rise of neoliberalism and this new geography of manufacturing. Distinguished options of this shift have included: austerity measures (enforced within the South by way of the notorious Structural Adjustment Packages), financialization of the worldwide financial system (which noticed the emergence of sure city metropoles as hubs of the worldwide monetary trade, lots of them within the International South, akin to Hong Kong, Singapore, Shanghai, Bahrain, Dubai, Saõ Paolo), hovering charges of unemployment and wage disparities, feminization of workforce (particularly in export processing zones).

It is very important make right here the next conceptual distinction: whereas some students (Grovogui 2011) see an nearly seamless continuum from the Third World to the International South, others akin to L.S. Stavrianos (1981) and Vijay Prashad (2012) see continuities but additionally elementary ruptures and shifts. Some students point out that the time period International South emerged within the 2000s, to point a brand new geopolitical association after the top of the Chilly Warfare (see Dados and Connell 2012). The dialogue right here, nevertheless, just isn’t significantly eager in exploring the provenance of the time period however reasonably to flesh out the historic content material behind each the Third World and the International South, as ideas and realities. So, in some methods, International South just isn’t merely synonymous with Third World, although they could have overlapping options (and at occasions they’re used interchangeably). Reasonably the concept of the International South alerts a essential historic juncture that may be dated again to the mid-1970s: the revival of neoliberalism, the demise of the Third World venture (with its emphasis on developmentalism, and the hunt for significant political and financial sovereignty), and the rise of what Jan Scholte (2005) referred to as ‘hypercapitalism.’

Writing in 1981, Stavrianos doesn’t use the time period International South; nevertheless, satirically, he does observe this actual shift by describing it because the Third Worldization of the First World, whereby he makes the argument that the re-location of manufacturing processes from the North to the South, and the rising integration of all societies into a world capitalist financial system produced results inside prosperous societies that was related to the Third World: rising poverty and financial disparity, the creation of slums and processes of ghettoization, hovering charges of unemployment, amongst others (Stavrianos 1981: 23-27). Stavrianos doesn’t in any method counsel a levelling of the taking part in area (albeit in unfavorable phrases) between the First and Third Worlds through neoliberalism. Reasonably he’s pointing to the worldwide results of neoliberalism and the best way they re-structured the geography of inequality and oppression.

International South thus incorporates not solely areas that was referred to earlier than as Third World, but additionally areas within the North which might be characterised by exploitation, oppression and neocolonial relations, akin to indigenous and black communities (and immigrant communities) in Western societies; and vice versa, some areas that was a part of the Third World now inhabit an ambiguous political and financial area due to speedy processes of modernization and integration into the worldwide financial system. Let’s suppose, as an illustration, of locations akin to Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, South Korea (the so-called Asian tigers), the nations a part of the Gulf Cooperation Council (Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman, and Bahrain), that are geographically positioned within the ‘South,’ although economically (and even politically) occupy areas within the North. And there are, in fact, liminal areas: nations in Southeast Europe and the Balkans, the place a few of them have been politically built-in into the European Union (and thus given partial entry to political and financial constructions of the North). Nevertheless, by way of their financial constructions and even in socio-cultural phrases, they’re very a lot a part of the International South. The liminality of those areas has turn into obviously obvious with the current Covid-19 disaster, when, within the midst of a common lockdown throughout the EU, agricultural workers were flown in from Romania into Germany and the UK to fulfill labour scarcity calls for for meals provide chains threatened by the lockdown. Not solely is the well being of those staff imperiled, however their working situations have been so appalling that some workers went on strike protesting lack of wages and degrading dwelling preparations.

The instance above illustrates deep ambiguities and contradictions behind the concept of the International South, whereby areas from South/Third World are built-in into institutional preparations in and by the North, which profit primarily the North, and the political and financial elites within the South. One such instance is NAFTA (North American Free Commerce Settlement), a free commerce settlement between the US, Canada, and Mexico, which took impact in January 1994. The settlement had as its aim the elimination of commerce limitations between the three nations, and the rise of funding amongst them. On January 1, 1994, on the identical day that the NAFTA settlement took impact, the Zapatista Military of Nationwide Liberation (EZLN) declared battle to the Mexican state. The Zapatista insurrection is made up primarily of poor indigenous peasants from Chiapas, in southern Mexico, whose already precarious livelihoods had been devastated by the NAFTA settlement. Their struggles, their distinctive political philosophy and types of group, and their persistence within the face of great odds stacked towards them have attracted world consideration: quite a few teams, social actions, activists, lecturers, artists and journalists each from the North and the South have reached out in solidarity with the Zapatistas over the past three a long time.

This instance illustrates one other layer of the time period ‘International South:’ on the one hand, there’s the brand new geography of neoliberalism with its world capillaries of exploitation and dehumanization; alternatively, there’s additionally the International South as ‘a concatenation of protests towards the theft of the commons, towards the theft of human dignity and rights, towards the undermining of democratic establishments’ (Prashad 2012: 9). The protests which have not too long ago exploded all through the International South in late 2019 in Chile, Iraq, Ecuador, Bolivia, Algeria, Iran, Lebanon have been chained mobilizations towards the depredations of neoliberal capitalism and its native instantiations.

The query that lies on the core of debates across the phrases Third World and International South is the next: what (if something) connects the Third World venture to the International South? Whereas the rise of rising economies (the BRICS: Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) has been hailed by some as signalling the top of the US’ political and financial hegemony (and that of the West, extra typically), and the arrival of multipolarity, others see little hope on this comparatively current growth. Richard Pithouse (2018) argues that there’s little that hyperlinks the emancipatory potential of the Third World venture (as highlighted by the conferences in Bandung in 1955 and Havana in 1966) to the up to date actuality of the BRICS. Present political management of nations making up the BRICS is something however emancipatory: Modi and Bolsonaro could be precisely described as fascists, Vladimir Putin runs a extremely repressive and corrupt regime, whereas corruption is deeply embedded in Chinese language and South African polities. Pithouse thus sees little hope for emancipation amongst political elites within the International South; reasonably, he argues, recovering the emancipatory venture of the Third World has to return from constructing well-liked and democratic grassroots actions all through the International South.

If the protests that exploded all through the International South in late 2019 are to be taken critically, then the evaluation is correct: we can’t recuperate the promise and potential of the Third World venture from present political institutions within the International South – they’ve morphed into native/regional conduits of neoliberal repression (there are a couple of notable exceptions right here, akin to Cuba). Nevertheless, it’s grassroots actions, each native and transnational, which have stored the legacy of the Third World venture alive. Paradoxically, then, the time period International South alerts each the flip to neoliberalism but additionally ‘a world of protest, a whirlwind of inventive exercise’ (Prashad 2012: 9).


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