‘Majority World’ – a new word for a new age

As Defined by Appropedia:

The majority world (sometimes capitalized as Majority World) is a term used in preference to the largely inaccurate, out-of-date and/or non-descriptive terms developing countries, third world and the “South”. In the early nineties, Bangladeshi photographer Shahidul Alam [1][2]began advocating for a new expression “majority world” to represent what has formerly been known as the “Third World.” The term highlights the fact that these countries are indeed the majority of humankind. It also brings to sharp attention the anomaly that the Group of 8 countries—whose decisions affect majority of the world’s peoples—represent a tiny fraction of humankind.

Majority world defines the community in terms of what it is, rather than what it lacks.

The term LDCs (Least Developed Countries) is more accurate than most of the alternatives, but may be seen as having strong negative connotations that reinforce the stereotypes about poor communities and represent them as icons of poverty. There is also the question of summing up a nation which may have great cultural heritage as less developed, by considering only the economics development.

More strident critics of the Western role in these nations make more damning criticisms of the terms third world, developing country and LDCs: that they hide histories of oppression and continued exploitation. It is sometimes argued that economically poor countries of the world are invariably countries that have been colonized, and continue to be colonized through globalized forms of control.

The labels also hinder the appreciation of the cultural and social wealth of these communities. Though these terms are still used, there is an increasing feeling within the communities themselves that these terms are inappropriate. The term majority world may be seen as challenging the West’s rhetoric of democracy[3].

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18 thoughts on “‘Majority World’ – a new word for a new age

  1. Thanks Manu for putting this out. I have in fact been grappling with the use of these terminologies – Least Developing Countries (LDCs), developing countries, the South, Third World etc. used to describe the “Majority World”. The terminologies seem to keep evolving depending on whoever comes up with a convincing development theory and what people prefer to use.

    I actually argued with some colleagues in a presentation I gave about using the South or developing countries.

    Also in a recent conference I argued with a speaker on the use of the term “poverty”, the categorization of countries as impoverished and what variables/factors are used to measure poverty. You can see most of these factors by looking at any UNDP Human Development Report.

    This is considering the fact the most of our people in the village have access to the basic necessities such as shelter, food, water, clothing etc. but are yet considered as poor by UN and other international orgs.

    I don’t know, some people might argue otherwise…

  2. Good points Solo, just naming things a certain way can change the whole light on a situation. I’d say that in your line of work and anyone else out there in Government and social services, lets start using ‘Majority World’ from now on.

    Just for something different, who knows what it might just do???

  3. Viva la revolucion!

    You’re absolutely right, though. The words we use to describe ‘problems’ determine whether they get solved or not.

  4. had me baffled when you mentioned ‘Majority World’ in your comment on ab absurdo. Now I see.

    “….continue to be colonized through globalized forms of control.”
    – I think this is so true and representative of a lot of countries (including PNG) when one considers and tries to argue about whose interests certain organisations and aid programs benefit. First thing that comes to mind are the tactics used by the IMF and World Bank etc.

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