Redefining the Gap 5, The North and the South

Note: This is a selection from Redefining the Gap, part of tdaxp‘s SummerBlog ’06


The theory of the Global North and Global South is a new geopolitical perspective. It is a new perspective that divides “the world into two blocs – the industrialized countries of the global North and the poor countries of the South” on the global level of analysis (Goldstein, Huang, and Akan 1997:242). While “Global South” is sometimes used as a synonym for the more familiar “Third World” (Hayes 1975:1261), the end of the Cold War has seen the term “Third World” and the politics behind it fall into disfavor (Pletsch 1981:569).

The First, Second, and Third Worlds (Wikipedia Contributors 2006c)

As opposed to earlier theories, the Global South perspective saw America, Europe, and Russia as essentially identical, perhaps each a closely related “’conquering subculture” (Tyson and Said 1993: 602). One way the Northern countries are similar is in their demographic decline relative to Southern states (Demeny 2003:15). Conflict was now seen as essentially or largely between the north and south (Wanandi 1983:1276; Wells 1981:69; Young 1987:392). Wealth also distinguishes the generally prosperous north from an economically deprived south (Niva 1999:16).

Many theorists of the Global South theorists argue that security problems come from the Global South to the Global North. All of the September 11th attackers came from the Global South (Mazuri 2002:86) and the Global South is an incubator for religious fundamentalisms (Keddie 1998:700). This may be exacerbated by an income and wealth divide between the north and the south, such as in international debt instruments (Kaufman 1999:219). Some thinkers have suggested that the Global South has delayed if not prevented Francis Fukuyama’s predicted “end of history” (Baker 1995:8).

Discussion of the Global South has traditionally involved political concerns. These have emphasized the behavior of labor, closely examining the flow of high-skilled persons from the south to the north (Ansah 2002:23) and the technology that allows people to work more efficiently Weber and Bussell 2005:77). Capital has also been discussed, including criticism of the north’s “patterns of consumption” (Edwards, Humle, and Wallace 1999:121) and patterns of investment (Ansley 2001:381) in the south. Land and the environment are also issues, like for example in “efforts to curb World Bank lending for projects that threatened peoples and ecosystems” (J. Smith 2001:4). At times this rises to the level of international diplomacy, with organizations like the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, and others in actual “north-south negotiations” (Erb 1977:109) and occasionally north-south threats (T. Smith 1977:5).

The divide between the Global North and the Global South has been described as both artificial and inevitable. On the artificial side, the disparity between Northern and Southern countries may be a function of different styles of property rights (Chichlinisky 1994:853) or exploitation of the south by the north (Herod 2000:419) . Further, China’s rise has seen the “Global North” spread into the south while uneducated “Northern” workers may face southern-style conditions (Broad and Cavanagh 1995-1996:29). However, many have argued that the divide is so real that even concepts such as equality must not be “exported” from the north to the south, but developed locally (Eisenstein 1997:155).

Redefining the Gap, a tdaxp series:
Redefining the Gap 1. Prologue
Redefining the Gap 2. Summary
Redefining the Gap 3. Introduction to Geopolitics
Redefining the Gap 4. First Geopolitical Theories
Redefining the Gap 5. The North and the South
Redefining the Gap 6. Critical Geopolitics
Redefining the Gap 7. The Pentagon’s New Map
Redefining the Gap 8. The Research Design
Redefining the Gap 9. Methods and Operationalizations
Redefining the Gap 10. Limitations and Conclusion
Redefining the Gap 11. Results
Redefining the Gap 12. Bibliography
Redefining the Gap 13. Appendix: Computer Code
Redefining the Gap 14. Appendix: National Codes