GLOBAL RIFT: The Third World Comes of Age by L. S. Stavrianos
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GLOBAL RIFT: The Third World Comes of Age

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Third World"" is a term that only cams into use after World War II to describe those countries that fell outside the socialist and capitalist blocs, but it has taken on connotations of economic dependency and underdevelopment in the intervening years. Stavrianos, a UC-San Diego historian known for his unusual subjects (The Promise of the Coming Dark Age), here takes this recent category and extends it back in time--with unusual, thought-provoking results. Stavrianos defines the Third World as ""those countries or regions that are economically dependent upon, and subordinate to, the developed First World."" By that definition, he traces the origins of the Third World to the 15th century and locates its first appearance in Eastern Europe. In the most striking of his assertions, Stavrianos argues that the trade that began around 1400 between Northwestern Europe and Eastern Europe via the Baltic ports represented a classic First World/Third World relationship; that is, necessities like grain and timber flowed to the west while finished goods flowed east. By this arrangement, the economies of the Northwest developed horizontally--manufactures of different kinds along with their financial counterparts and commercial institutions--while the East developed vertically, with all the attention going to the production of foodstuffs and raw materials. Thereafter, more and more of the world became absorbed into the Third World as the capitalist economies of Northwestern Europe continued to expand. Latin America was the first region after Eastern Europe to attain Third World status during the period of commercial capitalism and colonization in the 15th to 18th centuries, while Africa and the Middle East remained peripheral. (In Africa, for example, the slave trade was restricted to the coastal regions of a part of the continent and did not materially alter the economy of the region as a whole.) Asia and Russia, meanwhile, remained outside the reach of western capitalism altogether. By the Industrial Revolution (c. 1770), capitalism began to become a world system, and India and the Middle East were integrated into the system through colonization. A true world system was achieved only in the period of monopoly capitalism in the late 19th-century, as Russia, China, Africa, and, belatedly and uniquely, Japan entered the Third World. First, Stavrianos traces and analyzes these developments--from the total structuring of the Egyptian economy toward the production and sale of cotton, to the exception of Japan, which alone was able to maintain national control over its economy and thus to ""develop"" rather than ""grow""; then, he embarks on the tale of the 20th-century rebellions and revolutions that account for the ""rift"" in his title, and occupy half the 800-plus pages of text. All the upheavals are covered, from Russia to Iran; but despite Stavrianos' mastery of these separate histories and their integration into a coherent narrative, and despite the able use of radical development theories, the most original element is still the starting point. For a view of world economic history from the other side, this lengthy work is nevertheless first-rate.

Pub Date: Oct. 19th, 1981
Publisher: Morrow