It was a silly fashion of political correcrtness some years ago that swept away the terms First World countries and Third World countries, calling them “developed” and “developing” instead. It’s a nuisance because they’re so similar-looking that one has to keep on double-taking when reading. Besides, “developed” counries are themselves developing. Because “developed” and “developing” are so unsatisfactory the term “emergent” has also . . . well, emerged.
Also, when Jim O’Neill worked for Goldman Sachs (GS) he devised yet another variant — the BRICS countries for countries like China, India and Brazil. But as they’re all suffering badly at present (except perhaps India) the BRICS classifcation has now been dropped by GS — nor does GS persuade its clients to invest there either..
There are no hard and fast demarcations between the three World terms. Most countries of Western Europe, for example, are somewhere between being First and Second World. Eastern European countries — the ex communist regimes — are Second world.
The only indubitably First World countries — America, Germany and Britain — are the prime inheritors of the Western Enlightenment and the rise of science kf two or three centuries past. Only they generate a steady stream of fundamental ideas and innovations which emerge from having a high density of basic research institutions. These three scoop up almost all the Nobel prizes in the science subjects.
Of course, those three First world countries may not maintain their status in future years. Much will depend on levels of funding for fundamental scientific research by their governments. If I were American I would be much relieved to learn that Obama is now throwing a lot of funding at the neuro- and biological sciences. This is the big growth sector of the future — not for more consumers’ status toys as during the industrial revolution period so far but for increasingly sophisticated services in the life and death department — adequate education for one’s children’s future career and better health for oneself.
Also, countries that I would describe as being at the top end of the Second World in terms of being more than usually innovative, such as Sweden, Singapore, India and Israel might join the First World in die course — as could a few European countries. Whether China, capable of vast numbers of innovations in pre-Ming Dynasty eras (up to about 1400), its future is debatable. Today its population is so deferential that, like South Korea (Second World) and Japan (barely First World), its research scientists are seldom creative until they’ve spent years in the First world countries absorbing a more permissive culture and not pouring scorn on way-out ideas.
The politically correct who favoured developed and developing didn’t like the hierarchy implied by First, Second and Third /world. Well . . . if they choose to ignore the pecking order that’s deep in mankind so be it. But most folk don’t worry about it. First, Second and Third soccer league tables — among many other activities — are the obvious way of running the schemes. Whatever First World politicians may say about helping Third World countries with government aid — fairly trivially instead of high quality research labs which is what they really need for promotion — the fact is that, between themselves, First World countries are always in a state of high competition between themselves in order to attract the multinationals.
I don’t sjuppose thet the First, Second and Third classifacations will come back into use until the present wave of political correctness blows over