Mark T. Berger (ed.): After the Third World?

Author:Sinha, Dipankar
Position:Book review

Mark T. Berger (ed.) After the Third World? Routledge: London, 2009; 264 pp.: 9780415466370, 75 [pounds sterling] (hbk)

It seems that the highly controversial term/concept/category of 'Third World' does not have an expiry date, notwithstanding periodic intellectual efforts to shoot it down. Right from its inception as a much-needed discovery of the West at a specific historical juncture, it has been heavily critiqued, and a variety of analysts has sought to expose its hollowness. But it continues to be part of mainstream political and academic discourse with a vengeance. With the liquidation of the 'Second World', it was thought that 'Third World' had finally lost its connotative value, but it lingered on. The long-drawn and intense debate on the conceptual baggage and analytical utility of the term might have seemed to have lost total relevance with the mounting fame of the so-called 'global village' and the borderless world. Yet, as this provocatively titled volume (especially given the question mark) reveals, the debate refuses to die, with a number of new dimensions and angles giving it a new lease of life.

The book, dedicated to the memory of Edward Said, is a collection of thirteen pieces that had been previously published in a special issue of Third World Quarterly. The dedication is significant because a major strand in the academic debate on the Third World concerns epistemic politics--linking knowledge and power and its one-sided articulation--vis-a-vis the construction and representations, with long shadows of Orientalism, of the Third World as an idea, entity, imagery and discourse. In such a scheme, the First World was a model to be emulated, and the Second World was the undesirable alternative. The Third World, composed mainly of the states (but not limited to them) that had managed to come out of repressive colonial rule and hand the colonial powers their 'moment of defeat', would be the 'backward and non-autonomous' space economically, politically, socially and culturally, thus qualifying for the imposition of the mainstream development model. On the other hand, with the passing of time and the twists and turns of (world) politics, the idea of the Third World became a rallying point for resisting the political, economic and cultural domination of the First World. The consequent emergence of Third Worldism and its assertion is, however, not without its share of unnecessary self-romanticisation, and dangerous silence on...

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