Public Platitudes and Unfounded Attitudes

  • James H. Mittelman
  • Mustapha Kamal Pasha
Part of the International Political Economy Series book series (IPES)


From listening to commentators on television and reading the newspapers, you may have the impression that many, if not most, non oil-exporting Third World countries are mired in poverty, ignorance, superstition, hopelessness and underdevelopment. Nowadays the media frequently refer to such countries as Bangladesh and Haiti as ‘basket cases’. Some of these have been assigned to the ‘Fourth World’. In its innocence, this could mean the bottom of the barrel: then Time magazine even suggested that we must distinguish a ‘Fifth World’.


Gross Domestic Product Political Economy Human Development Index World Country Real Gross Domestic Product 
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Notes and References

  1. Moynihan’s statement is noted by Michael Harrington, The Vast Majority: A Journey to the World’s Poor (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1977) p. 18 (emphasis in original).Google Scholar
  2. Brzezinski was interviewed by George Urban. The interview appeared under the title ‘The Perils of Foreign Policy: A Conversation in Washington’, Encounter 56, 5 (May 1981), especially p. 13; andGoogle Scholar
  3. in condensed form, ‘A Talk with Brzezinski’, New York Times, 22 April 1981 (emphasis in original).Google Scholar
  4. The discussion on National Geographic was from Catherine A. Lutz and Jane L. Collins, Reading National Geographic (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1993).Google Scholar
  5. Mr Gromyko’s quip is taken from ‘Russians Come and Russians Go, but Not Gromyko’, New York Times, 4 October 1982.Google Scholar
  6. Material on disease in the Third World draws on ‘Media’s Portrayal of Ebola Virus Sparks Outbreak of Wild Scenarios’, Washington Post, 14 May 1995.Google Scholar
  7. Xan Smiley’s ‘Misunderstanding Africa’ can be found in The Atlantic Monthly, 250, 3 (September 1982), pp. 72, 74.Google Scholar
  8. See Ngugi Wa Thiong’o, Petals of Blood (New York: Dutton, 1978) p. 326.Google Scholar
  9. The gap between rich and poor countries is discussed by the Independent Commission on International Development Issues, North-South: A Program for Survival (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1980) p. 32.Google Scholar
  10. Indicators of the gap can be found in World Bank, World Development Report 1993 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993) pp. 199, 238–9 and 246–7, andCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. the UNDP, Human Development Report 1993 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993) pp. 141, 213.Google Scholar
  12. On the meaning of political economy, see W Ladd Hollist and James A. Caporaso, ‘International Political Economy Research: What Is It and Where Do We Turn for Concepts and Theory?’, in W Ladd Hollist and F. LaMond Tullis (eds), An International Political Economy, International Political Economy Yearbook (Boulder, Col.: Westview Press, 1985) vol. 1, pp. 27–49, andGoogle Scholar
  13. James A. Caporaso and David P. Levine, Theories of Political Economy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993).Google Scholar
  14. The classical tradition is surveyed by Robert L. Heilbroner, The Worldly Philosophers: The Lives, Times, and Ideas of the Great Economic Thinkers (New York: Time Incorporated, 1961).Google Scholar
  15. Another valuable study is Ernest Mandel, Marxist Economic Theory, trans. Brian Pearce (London: Merlin, 1968).Google Scholar
  16. For an overview of various schools of thought, consult Robert W Cox, ‘In Search of Political Economy’, New Political Science, 5/6, (Winter/ Spring 1981), pp. 59–78, andGoogle Scholar
  17. Michael Barratt Brown, Models in Political Economy: A Guide to the Arguments (Boulder, Col.: Lynne Rienner, 1985).Google Scholar
  18. Diverse perspectives on the Third World are represented in People’s Daily, The Theory of Three Worlds (New York: Books New China, 1977);Google Scholar
  19. Kwame Nkrumah, ‘The Myth of the “Third World”’, Labour Monthly, 50, 10 (October 1968), p. 465;Google Scholar
  20. ‘Mrs. Gandhi Welcomes Dawn of Era of Detente’, India News, 4 September 1973,Google Scholar
  21. cited by Allen H. Merriam, ‘Semantic Implications of the Term “Third World”’, International Studies Notes, 6, 3 (Fall 1979), p. 14; andGoogle Scholar
  22. Immanuel Wallerstein, The Capitalist World-Economy (Cambridge, Mass.: Cambridge University Press, 1979) p. 348.Google Scholar
  23. Brief histories of China’s theory of three worlds can be found in James C. Hsiung and Samuel S. Kim (eds), China in the Global Community (New York: Praeger Publishers, 1980) pp. 28–37, andGoogle Scholar
  24. Samuel S. Kim, China In and Out of the Changing World Order (Princeton, NJ: Center for International Studies, 1991) pp. 53–6.Google Scholar
  25. On the decline of US hegemony, see Robert Gilpin, The Political Economy of International Relations (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1987) p. 330, andGoogle Scholar
  26. James H. Mittelman, ‘The End of a Millennium: Changing Structures of World Order and the Post-Cold War Division of Labour’, in Larry A. Swatuk and Timothy M. Shaw (eds), The South at the End of the Twentieth Century: Rethinking the Political Economy of Foreign Policy in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean and Latin America (London: Macmillan, 1994) pp. 15–27.Google Scholar
  27. Information on the US recovery was from Sylvia Nasar, ‘The American Economy, Back on Top’, New York Times, 27 February 1994. The figures on the debt service of underdeveloped countries were from the UNDP, Human Development Report 1993, p. 174.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© James H. Mittelman and Mustapha Kamal Pasha 1997

Authors and Affiliations

  • James H. Mittelman
    • 1
  • Mustapha Kamal Pasha
    • 1
  1. 1.School of International ServiceAmerican UniversityWashington, DCUSA

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