Developing States and their Shared Characteristics


By: Gerald F. Witherspoon, Sr. 20140804

Some states are considered to be “developing” because academicians took up the case to establish a philosophical construct that divides the socio-economic and political spheres of the world. This division of spheres is sometimes referred to as the “North-South divide” or the “First and Third Worlds” and has a reminiscent interpretation to the ‘East West conflict’ (Eckl, 2007, 18). Nevertheless, the term “developing” is commonly discussed and intended to have economic implications.

In Managing Development in a Globalized World, author Zafarullah referenced Gidden’s Portrayal of Countries (2006), statistically demonstrating that developing states comprise 85% of the world’s population, but only produce 21% of the world’s wealth (2012). Accordingly, developing states opposed to developed states are indicative of low income in relation to high income and the term developing implies that a state is less industrialized than its counterpart. The less industrialized or developing states are in Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the Pacific (Zafarullah, 2012). The World Bank, using gross national income (GNI) per capita, classified states into low, middle, and high income categories and considered both low and middle income states  as developing (Zafarullah, 2012). Finally, some states are considered to be developing because, in contrast to others, they have not reached economic independence (Zafarullah, 2012).

Over 75% of the world’s population lives throughout the developing world (Zafarullah, 2012). Societies throughout the developing world or developing countries (DCs) consist largely of farming communities that are predominantly agricultural in nature.  Developing states commonly experience infrastructure and communication complications. These states are marred with inefficient political and economic management which produces enduring social and economic problems. Another staggering similarity amongst developing states is the chronic and acute poverty existent within their communities. Malnutrition, starvation, or what Zafarullah referred to as “human underdevelopment” plague nearly all developing states (2010). Zafarullah further noted the most vexatious of shared characteristics amongst developing states, “Almost all these DCs were once under colonial (British, French, Dutch, Spanish, Portuguese, Belgian, or American) rule” (2012). Finally, unlike developed states, developing states remain vulnerable to outside intervention because of their inability to achieve social and economic advancement without support (Zafarullah, 2012).

Politics is not charity work, although, it involves passionate giving. When giving is involved, it is done with the intent to placate a stronghold while generating a return on investment measured in terms of geopolitical influence or a balancing of power of some sort. Although “developed” states possess social, economic, and governmental inefficiencies similar to “developing” states, measuring technological advancement and economic production is relative to defining a state’s level of development. The world plenipotentiaries are more concerned about how states develop in regard to the power of their leaders than the happiness of their people. Historically, technological advancements and economic production has been the key to military victories, and thus, accumulation of world power.

In regard, to international development being defined by Western standards, might retains the right. It may appear, and I may agree, that it is immoral to categorize states that are perfectly content with their agricultural economy and state of development as “underdeveloped” or “developing.” Nevertheless, politics in general is a game played by world plenipotentiaries that naturally do not allow moral decisions to prevent them from effectuating power. Who defines whether 38mph is too fast in a local school zone; the drivers, school teachers, or students? No, only those with the legal authority to do so make the rules. It does not matter what philosophical reasoning the other actors involved may have presented to detest the speed limit. In essence, as long as international law is influenced by Western ideas and standards, the definition of development will abide accordingly. So then, the question could be, how does one change Western influence on international law? Would Eleanor Roosevelt have an answer?

What do developed and developing states have in common? One commonality is leaders who have a desire to retain power at any cost. This requires strengthening state legitimacy which is inextricably linked to population dependency. As world leaders compete for power and territory, they will endeavor to master the art of subjecting populations to dependency. The international relations theory of realism speaks highly of the intentionality of dependency creation. Still others such as Zafarullah and Ahmed echoed this notion when stating, “Continued dependency on the advanced nations and international aid organizations deterred them from pursuing development goals on terms favorable to their cause, and with the rise of neoliberal ideas in economic and political matters and the gradual integration of the world economy, the state of play in the development process underwent a far-reaching transformation” (Zafarullah and Ahmed, 2012). Further, has there ever been a free democracy where the citizens were free from oppression, in all actuality? As stated in the UN’s A Magna Carta for all, “Around the world, millions of people are still denied food, shelter, access to medical care, education and work, and too many live in extreme poverty. Their inherent humanity and dignity are not recognized” (United Nations 1997). This rings true throughout the entire global civil society. Despite the “developed” and “developing” categorizations, human rights violations, structural violence, and cultivation and exploitation of all seven dimensions of human insecurities listed in the Human Development Report continue at a rampant pace (UNDP 1994, 24-25). Conclusively, a whore who sleeps with seven men per week is no cleaner than one who sleeps with 14.


Eckl, Julian, and Ralph Weber. 2007. “North – South? Pitfalls of dividing the world by words.” Third World Quarterly 28, no. 1: 3-23. Academic Search Premier, EBSCOhost (accessed August 4, 2014).

United Nations. A Magna Carta for all humanity. 1997. (accessed August 10, 2013).

United Nations Development Program. Human Development Report. 1994. (accessed August 10, 2014).

Zafarullah, Habib, and Ahmed Shafiqul Huque. Managing Development in a Globalized World: Concepts, Processes, Institutions. Auerbach Publications. 2012.  (accessed August 4, 2014).


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