IR - One Definition A Day: First WorldAs the word 'First' implies this categorisation refers to those states that were historically in the vanquard of the modernisation process following the Industrial Revolution that commenced in eighteenth-century Britain.
As a collective expression the terms 'First World' and 'Advanced Industrial Countries' (AIC) are coterminous. The occurence of the Cold War in mid-twentieth-century international relations led to the term taking on a more relativist connotation. It became a requirement of popular analysis to contrast the First World with the Second (meaning the communist states) and eventually the 'Third World'. The end of the Cold War, the collapse of communism and the weakening of the viability of the concept of Third Worldism has had a feedback effect upon the idea of the First World.
Historically the term probably retains relevance as a means of identifying a group of states that espoused capitalism and economic liberalism. In the account of this development change occured as a result of internal processes rather than external pressures. Economic growth led to the developoment of a bourgeoisie and to demands for political participation to be broadened to accomodate these new classes.
Scientific innovation and technoligical change are important features of these societies and again they tend to be in the vanquard of most of these changes. The multinational corporation (MNC) is the unique non-governmental creation of the First World's value system and it has been the vehicle or transmission belt for distributing these values to the rest of the system. There is growing evidence that the template of First Worldism is being reassessed from within as so-called 'a quality of life' considerations are producing a possible paradigm shift towards more sustainable development.
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