The East Asian financial crisis, the bursting of the dot.com bubble and the launching of the war on terrorism can be seen as three aspects of a single historical moment that marks the passage from one strategy of US imperialism to another. No longer based primarily on financial globalisation as the means through which the power and control of the corporations and government of the USA is extended over the world, as it was in the 1990s, US strategy is now more openly based on the direct control of productive assets and territory. This historical moment has also marked the definitive end of the idea of the Third World and its associated ideology of Third Worldism. Although this end has, of course, been repeatedly proclaimed, and contested, over the past two decades, this article argues that the idea of the Third World, and the associated ideas of development and non-alignment, were predicated upon the core concept of the national bourgeoisie and associated notions of the inherently progressive potential of nationalism. It traces the historical emergence of this idea in the work of Lenin and its subsequent trajectory during its cold war heyday. I emphasise that the idea of a united and rising Third World had a greater reality as a hope than it had as an objective historical possibility. The present moment in US imperialism is one where even that hope cannot be sustained鈥攖hus the definitive end of the idea of the Third World.
|Third World Quarterly
|Published - 2004