Any such thing as a second world country?

You hear of first world countries: the US, Britian, Canada, etc.
And you hear about third world countries: Yugoslavia, India, and Egypt.
But are there such things as second world countries?

The “second world” would originally have been the Soviet bloc, although I don’t know that anyone ever actually called it that. The “third world” countries were the “non-aligned” group, officially allied with neither the U.S. and its allies nor the U.S.S.R. and its allies. These countries were mostly poorer ex-colonial states in Africa and Asia (and at that time, very newly ex-colonial), so the meaning eventually morphed into the modern meaning of poor/underdeveloped/
devoloping/whatever term you want to use, as opposed to the rich/developed/
industrialized/post-industrial “First World”.

The first/second/third world division was coined after World War Two, with US allies (especially western Europe) being first world, the Soviet Union and its vassal states in Eastern Europe & elsewhere being the second world, with the third world being every non-aligned nation. Since the Soviets went kaput back in the early nineties, the term second world nation has fallen out of use, though some now use it to describe countries that are not that rich, but are developing at a good clip - see Thailand & Malaysia for example.

Thank you both for the explinations.

There were indeed, second world countries, at the time when the designation was first popular (and still are) In fact, the three nations you listed as Third World were considered classic second world nations. The ‘worlds’ were “developed” , “developing” and “underdeveloped” (later called “less developed countries” or LDCs)

Yugoslavia was, when I last saw it, a relatively poor nation, but with the full Western technological infrastructure, education, etc. Though economic development may still be very high in its list of national priorities, it’s rather close to a first world nation.

India is a nuclear power, a huge and growing educated class including more engineers and programmers than any other country in the world, and a steadily improving industrial base. It would be difficult to call it “un- or under-developed” but there is still far too much crushing povery to remotely consider it “first world”

Egypt is much like India, perhaps less extreme. It is technically and technologically sophisticated, but not in the first rank of nations. Very little of it mostly urban or semi-urban population, concentrated along the developed Nile can really be compared to the hundreds of millions of rural Indian peasants. There is povery, of course, but even that poverty is relatively affluent compared to the poor of many nations.

If anything is decreasing, it’s the “Third World”. There are still many countries that have little industrial base, sparse to nonexistent national higher education, a poor or volatile economic base (e.g. agricultural), incomplete technological infrastructure (e.g.an incomplete or unreliable electric grid; poor nationwide communications, unreliable transportation, spotty public health facilities like sewers, running potable water or fully equipped hospitals), but many of these nations would prefer to count themselves as “second world” developing nations. It’s a continuum, and from the three choices you selected as “third world”, I’d guess that you might be surprised by the technological level of many nations today.

In fact, I’d say that the biggest single distinction between first-, second- and third- worlds today is uniformity of infrastructure, rather than national economic power or affluence. The developed nations have a high level of near-universal infrastructure, the second world has good infrastructure in the cities and alrger town, with effects reaching into the countryside. The third world increasingly consists of small poor nations, often isolated from their neighbors by geography (e.g. islands, jungles) or lack of trade and resources, and with minimal infrastructure even in the cities, limiting the prospects for unassisted development

Just wait until you figure out who the Second Person is.

Also -

When I was in high school (late 1980s), I recall being taught that there were also “fourth world” countries - the difference between them and the third world was that the latter had some resources and could potentially move on up, while fourth world countries didn’t have anything. I remember Afghanistan being called out as fourth world, as well as a couple African nations.

Following up on that, in a couple of international development classes I had in about 1988/9, I read some economists posit:

Third World: “developing”

Fourth World: “currently lacking the ability to develop”

Fifth World: “actually moving backwards” (think about the freefalls we’ve seen in recent decades such as Rwanda, Afghanistan, and, in terms of human development indicators since the fall of the USSR, Russia)

The meaning of the term has certainly shifted over time, but India and Egypt and probably Yugoslavia would all have been members of the “Third World” as originally defined. All the sources I checked agree that “Third World” (“Tiers Monde”) originally had a geopolitical meaning, referring to nations not part of either of the superpower blocs. It seems to have been coined or at least popularized around the time of the 1955 Bandung Conference of “non-aligned” nations.

Of course, this division is obsolete (and probably has been since at least the Sino-Soviet split in the '60’s, and clearly since the collapse of Soviet communism). Economically, it makes little sense to divide the planet into three “worlds”–you could come up with any number of divisions or strata of economic development, and the classically defined “Third World” states vary hugely in terms of governmental competance, social health, and economic progress–but the name has nonetheless to some extent stuck.

I believe 1st/2nd/3rd originated out of academia and primarily out of Political Science departments. With 1st being U.S. & Allies, 2nd being the Soviet Bloc, and 3rd being everyone else.

Throughout the years the terms have gained more economic meaning, been expanded on by some, and been replaced by others.

There’s other terms now that will refer to economies as “core” or “periphery” et cetera, “industrial”, “industrializing” “least industrializing” if you take an intor foreign policy class these days you’re likely to be hit with a dictionary of possible terms.

Yes, but there needs to be a way to distinguish between countries like Russia who have resources out the wazoo, are still recovering from the legacy of communism, and could be a major power economically if only they got their shit together, and places like Afghanistan or Turkmenistan, where basically the only resources they have are a bunch of rocks and a few people.

Hmm. It was my understanding that it’s called the “Third World” to distinguish it from the “New World” and the “Old World”

As previous discussion indicated, this is incorrect. There are many “Third World” countries in both the New Workd and the Old World.

Of course, a country doesn’t really need that many resources to become a major player, all they have to do get their act together - look at Japan, a medieval state in 1867 when Admiral Perry showed up, turned themselves into a Great Power in 50-60ish years, and they don’t have much besides fish, rice, & mountains. Taiwan, South Korea, Singapore, and Hong Kong would be other examples of countries that were dirt poor 50 years ago, and don’t have much resources, yet are quite prosperous.

Here’s the Straight Dope on the origin of Third World.

“The situation is pretty confused, all right, which is about par for the course in matters etymological. I’ve heard the phrase attributed to the French agronomist Rene Dumont, but the most convincing story credits French demographer Alfred Sauvy, who is said to have coined tiers monde in 1952.”