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Planetarity: From Third World to Global South

10 Jun 2018 at 09:29hrs | Views
Presently it is the true stuff of political and intellectual fashion to refer to Africa, Latin America and even Asia as collectively the Global South.

For the reason that there are more political, ideological and intellectual reasons to the name Global South than just being those former colonised areas of the world that are positioned geographically at the South of the equator, there is need to nuance the term.

The name Global South is a politically and ideologically charged term whose historical implications are important for the intellectuals, politicians and populations that are concerned with the future of the planet.

Beyond the simple and simplistic uses of the term as a political slogan and an intellectual catch-phrase, Global South is a demanding metaphor that has occupied present planetary thinking in many ways.

Planetary thinking or planetarity here referred to is the philosophical and political commitment to a future of liberation, for humans and all forms of existence, in the entire planet.

How exactly did certain societies of the globe graduate from what was the Third World in the 1950s and 1960s to what is now the Global South should be understood.

What are the political goods and intellectual resources that the name Global South carries which the title Third World did not have, is a question to ponder. Is the Global South a place or is it a historical condition and a political sensibility is another question that cries out for answers.

That the Global South might be a political attitude and an intellectual posture that has little to do with continents and their borders is also a factor to be considered in the attempt to arrest the true meaning of Global Southernity and political planetarity.

Once the Third World
Before 1991 the term Third World in reference to what is now the Global South carried so much political currency and intellectual purchase.

The political conditions of the Cold War had sustained the idea of a Third World and the eventual collapse of the Soviet Union expired the idea.

The term had been coined by Alfred Sauvy in 1952 to describe troubled places of the world that had suffered colonisation and were enduring marginality, politically and economically, in the modern world. Chairman Mao Zedong gave the idea of the Third World some political oxygen in his theorisation of the "three worlds" international relations regime.
In the ruminations of Mao, the superpowers of the globe were the First World, while the developing countries occupied the Second World and former colonies that were still enduring coloniality became the inevitable Third World.

The term and the idea of the Third World became a fiery political slogan and intellectual buzz-world for leftist politicians and intellectuals the world over.

While racists and bigots used the term to describe the poverty and primitivity of the colonised and the former colonised countries, the revolutionaries inside the so-called Third World used the term as a slogan of protest and intellectual metaphor against the evil First and Second Worlds that were guilty of the slavery, imperialism and colonialism that impoverished their continents.

In 1955, 29 countries of the Third World, in the Bandung Conference, met in Indonesia to decide how the Third World was going to approach its political and economic development, not through capitalism or communism, but as none of the above and therefore a third option to world affairs.

What was the Third World geographically became a third force politically and intellectually in the regime of world politics and economics. Anthony Giddens became famous for his idea of the "Third Way" that sought to reconcile the ideological right and the left in world politics, an idea that he obviously adopted and adapted from the Third World political and intellectual movement of the 1950s and 1960s.

The Non-Aligned Summit of 1961 that followed in the spirit of the Bandung Conference fortified the idea of the Third World and the Third Force in world politics that resisted taking sides in the feuding powers of the Cold War. In that way the Third World and its Third Force in world affairs, political and economic, became a compelling historical and revolutionary path that had ideological and intellectual gravitas.

An intellectual movement called the Dependency theorists or the Dependencia, that influentially included Walter Rodney, fed fat on the idea of the underdeveloped Third World.  In 1977, the then President of the World Bank, Robert McNamara gave new energy to the idea and meaning of the term Third World. In his diction and gesture the Third World was to be the new saviour of the world and therefore needed to be supported developmentally and otherwise.

Not just the fall of the Soviet Union but also the decolonisation of South Africa in 1994, which was not necessarily liberation, complicated the world in many ways. Although the so-called Third World became politically independent and not economically free, there arose classes of people in the Third World that lived First World lives. Meanwhile, in the First World there were the poor blacks, migrants and others that lived Third World lives right inside Europe and America.

What was the First and the Third World politically and economically penetrated and overlapped into each other in a confusing and complicated manner. It is at that time that the term globalisation gained its own fashionable vogue in the 1990s.

There came up in the Third World an economic and political class of people that were beneficiaries of the world system in all its coloniality, some black politicians and businesspeople became tycoons that were sons and daughters of Empire except in their skin. Intellectuals and politicians could no longer think, write or speak, in justice, of a pure Third World. In perspective, the failure of decolonisation that was powered by Third World nationalism and consciousness to deliver liberation expired the political and intellectual currency and potency of the whole idea and left scholars and politicians orphaned of thoughts and ideas.

Globalisation, in its own coloniality, globalised both the problems and solutions of world affairs. We now have a Third World in the First World and a First World right inside the Third World. So who, what, where, when and how is the Global South?

Now the Global South
The "Global" part of the term "Global South" comes from the term "Globalisation." For that reason, the Global South is far more than just a geographic place and a location philosophically speaking, hence Walter Mignolo is able to convincingly state that the Global South has become a "political metaphor" that speaks of power, knowledge and being in the "South" of the world and its conditions.

The Global South is not just a place but also a time where the powerful robbed and punished the powerless in the world.
The West and the East of the world were taken over by the North and the South politically, intellectually and economically.

Economically, politically and physically there are now parts of the North in the South and parts of the South in the North, that is what globalisation has imperially achieved, to globalise both problems and solutions of life in the world.

Peoples and places of the South are those that have been southerned by the Euro-American World System, the oppressed that are also the hope of liberation at a world scale.

In that way, the North and South poles of the world geographically have become ideological, intellectual and political poles. In 2003 the United Nations Development Programme published a report titled "Forging A Global South" in recognition that the Global South has become an identity of places and peoples in the world that are not beneficiaries of the international status quo.

The Global South is in actuality also an intellectual sensibility and a political agenda.

To feel, think and articulate in Global South terms is to challenge colonial and imperial borders, physical and otherwise, and to forge global alliances against coloniality. The Global South is therefore also a set of historical and political situations and conditions.

It produces certain knowledges as much as it is produced by certain histories and knowledges, verily the Global South is a liberatory philosophical agenda and attitude. In other ways, the Global South is also an economic, political, cultural and intellectual class of those who have experienced left hand treatment of the modern colonial world system.

The Global South is a political consciousness and a knowledge of those that resist political impositions and dictates of the present world system. Decoloniality is, fundamentally a philosophy that has lost its temper and its intellectual patience, a Southern philosophy of Southern peoples and Southern places and experiences.

Walter Mignolo puts it well in that as a time, a place, situation and consciousness "the Global South is where the Global political society is emerging, precisely to do something to save us all, including the elite of the G7 nations, who apparently are too busy competing with one another in terms of production, consumption, and wealth that not much time is left for thinking about life in general, let alone about the lives of the nearly seven billion people on the planet and the planet itself." The Global South is not only, therefore, a political and intellectual identity but also a philosophical and political concern with the planet as a living entity and all the human and other lives that it contains.

The political and intellectual idea of the Third World is truly expired because it tends to endorse rather than challenge the fact that the political and economic problems of the world, such as racism and other classifications of the people and their places are man-made disasters.

No places, peoples and times of the planet are naturally first, second or third, it is colonialists, enslavers and other fundamentalists that made those classifications.

They are Southern and Global all people and places in the planet that resist coloniality in all its phases and facets. To be aware of and fight the colonial power matrix and its tricks is to be above all Southern, Global and ultimately planetary.

Cetshwayo Zindabazezwe Mabhena is a founder member of Africa Decolonial Research Network (ADERN), he writes from Esselin Street, Sunnyside in Pretoria:

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