Friday, October 2, 2009

Blog 4: Second World: What makes a country second world?

Can I just start off by saying good riddance to Janet Abu-Lughod. She had a good run, but I am happy to see her go. Her run around logic and often-sporadic train of thought was exhausting and frustrating to dissect. Eric Hobsbawn, while still a bit dry, is at least clear and highly systematic. I don’t know if I agree with New York Times when they labeled this book a “virtuoso performance” or depicted Hobsbawn as “one of the few genuinely great historians of our century”; however, I’ll give him his props for clarity and sheer amount of information he covered throughout the novel. Here is to hoping he becomes more exciting and titillating as the book goes on. Sigh…if only.
Hobsbawn presents a world no longer made of pieces, but a world now globally linked. Advancements of technology, transportation, education, and a new capitalist mindset of expansion led to a world no longer of mysterious edges but opportunity and expansion. Competitions of exploration once again sprung up in 1907 between U.S., British, and Scandinavian for the North Pole, this illustrate the lengths countries now went to find the new frontier. The world was becoming a smaller place. Railroad systems and steamships made it possible to travel transcontinental and intercontinental, once a journey of months, in days. For example, in 1904, the journey from Paris to Vladivostok was made in fifteen days. The electric telegraph made communication across the global possible in a few hours.
The social advancements of technology and transportation were the very factors, which created the distinctive differentiation between the ‘third world’ and the ‘developed world’. In 1880, the global system was divided into two sectors: the developed and the dependent. The developed was unified by history and capitalistic development. The latter were utterly disconnected except for their connection to the develop sector. The ’developed world’ was quickly leaving their agricultural roots behind and rapidly urbanizing. According to Hobsbawn, an ‘advanced country’ was homogeneous, internationally sovereign, economically developed, and was governed by a defined political and legal institution. Another huge defining factor was literacy. Technology was also used as a qualifying factor. A ‘developed world’ was marked with material production, the use of steam, iron, and coal. In Europe in the late 19th century was 95% of their energy source. The ability of mass material production and speedy communication in the ‘developed world’ marked a country as ‘advanced’. Hobsbawn states, “The 3rd world remained endemic.”
The ability for these countries to use individuals to think up ways to increase efficiency illustrated a lack of urgency in providing for the basics. Society steadily creating an incredibly dense and complex set of connection in trade. By becoming the leading manufacturer in one product, a country may have had to sacrifice producing a different product, which in turn led them to look outward for new sources. The world system developed was more permanent and static than the 13th century model.
My main question, and hopefully someone can help me out, but what defines a ‘second world’ country. Hobsbawn clearly establishes what ‘third world’ and ‘first world’/’developed world’ countries are, but he is pretty vague and neglectful in describing a ‘second world’. Can anyone explain this to me? In addition, what is an example of a ‘second world’ country? What distinguishes a ‘second world’ from a ‘first world’ and ‘second world’ from a ‘third world’? What level of development have they achieved? How advanced is their society based on morality, economic system, and educational system?

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