The Global South is a term that has been emerging in transnational and postcolonial studies to refer to what may also be called the "Third World" (i.e., Africa, Latin America, and the developing countries in Asia), "developing countries," "less developed countries," and "less developed regions." It can also include poorer "southern" regions of wealthy "northern" countries. The Global South is more than the extension of a "metaphor for underdeveloped countries." In general, it refers to these countries' "interconnected histories of colonialism, neo-imperialism, and differential economic and social change through which large inequalities in living standards, life expectancy, and access to resources are maintained."
Rise of the term
The first use of Global South in a contemporary political sense came about in 1969. Carl Oglesby writing the liberal Catholic journal Commonweal in a special issue on the Vietnam War, argued that centuries of US “dominance over the global south… have converged … to produce an intolerable social order.”
The term continued to gain traction and appeal throughout the second half of the 20th century. It appeared in less than two dozen publications in 2004, but in hundreds of publications by 2013. The emergence of the term is the result of a complex "historical and social process, [that] illustrates how the term has been charged with various shades of meanings."
Debates over the term
The development of the term "highlights the uncomfortable reality of previous terms." Most scholars generally see the term Global South more favorably than its predecessors "Third World" or "Developing countries." Leigh Anne Duck, the coeditor of the journal Global South, has argued that the term is better suited to "resist hegemonic forces that threaten the autonomy and development of these countries." Other critics and scholars like Alvaro Mendez (co-founder of the London School of Economics and Political Science's Global South Unit) have applauded the "empowering aspects of the term," "the unprecedented upward trajectory of its usage," and its ability to "encourage a reconsideration of developed countries' relationship to the Global South." Finally, the growth in popularity of the term "marks a shift from a central focus on development and cultural difference" within the Global South and instead recognizes the importance of their geopolitical relations.
However, some scholars disagree with the term. Some critics of the term argue that such "huge blanket terms" should be eliminated. Others have argued that the term Global South, its usage, and its subsequent consequences and implications mainly benefit those from the upper classes of countries within the Global South, those who stand "to profit from the political and economic reality [of] expanding south-south relations." One obvious criticism is that most of the population of the Global South live North of the equator in the Geographic North. Thus the term feels much less appropriate in Asia than it does in discussions focused on Africa or Latin America.
Furthermore, the geographical boundaries of the Global South continues to be a source of ongoing debate, with many critics and scholars like Andrea Hollington, Oliver Tappe, Tijo Salverda and Tobias Schwarz agreeing that the term is not a "static concept." Some like Rodolfo Magallanes have argued against the feasibility of "grouping together a large variety of countries and regions into one category [because it] tends to obscure specific (historical) relationships between different countries and/or regions" and the power imbalances within these relationships. Furthermore, he argues that this "may obscure wealth differences within countries – and, therefore, similarities between the wealthy in the Global South and Global North, as well as the dire situation the poor may face all around the world." Therefore, these scholars argue that the term should not be understood geographically, "connoting an image of the world divided by the equator, separating richer countries from their poorer counterparts." Rather, the geography of the Global South should be more readily understood as economic and migratory, the world understood through the "wider context of globalization or global capitalism." Beginning to understand the Global South in these terms shows that "most people in the so-called Global South actually live in the Northern Hemisphere."
Uses of the term
The term Global South "emerged in part to aid countries in the southern hemisphere to work in collaboration on political, economic, social, environmental, cultural, and technical issues." This is called South–South cooperation (SSC), a "political and economical term that refers to the long-term goal of pursuing world economic changes that mutually benefit countries in the Global South and lead to greater solidarity among the disadvantaged in the world system." The hope is that the countries within the Global South will "assist each other in social, political, and economical development, radically altering the world system to reflect their interests and not just the interests of the Global North in the process." It is guided by the principles of "respect for national sovereignty, national ownership, and independence, equality, non-conditionality, non-interference in domestic affairs, and mutual benefit." Countries using this model of South–South cooperation see the cooperation as a "mutually beneficial relationship that spreads knowledge, skills, expertise and resources to address their development challenges such as high population pressure, poverty, hunger, disease, environmental deterioration, conflict and natural disasters." Furthermore, these countries also work together to deal with "cross border issues such as environmental protection, HIV/AIDS," and the movement of capital and labor.
As Global South leaders have become more assertive in world politics, South-South cooperation has increased to "challenge the political and economic dominance of the North." SSC has become a popular political and economic concept today because of the recent "geographical shifts in manufacturing and production from the North to the Global South" and the recent "key diplomatic achievements" of several countries in the Global South in states such as China. These contemporary economic trends have "enhanced the historical potential of economic growth and industrialization in the Global South," which has allowed for renewed targeted SSC efforts that "loosen the strictures imposed during the colonial era and transcend the boundaries of postwar political and economic geography."
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