The word Developed, in the oxford dictionary, is defined as ‘to be in an advanced state’. Whether a world sociologist takes this definition in to account when measuring development of a country may depend on their value judgements, this may be influenced by a number of things, including the media. The media can influence people’s perception of developing worlds, by portraying them in need, which induces a feeling of compassion, or portraying negative images, which may induce feelings of indifference. This already shows that the problems relating to judging whether a particular country is more or less developed is values and preconceptions a sociologist may have as to how a country should be run, and whether they agree with capitalism or communism. Marxists in particular would be very critical of the capitalist system, whereas functionalists and the New Right are very much for the capitalist system, therefore the perspective of the ‘success’ of a country would be different.
Up until the 1990s the terms ‘First world’ (the West), ‘Second World’ (communist countries) and ‘Third World’ (the developing world) were commonly used, the collapse of communism means that these words are now rarely used. Many sociologists objected to the use of such terms as they felt that it would imply superiority and inferiority between developed and developing worlds. After the Brandt report (1981) on global inequality, sociologists divided the world in to ‘North’ (industrialised worlds) and ‘South’ (developing worlds), however these did not geographically match. Such terms imply that countries within these categories are all very much alike, which is not the case there are social and economic differences, for example sociologists have identified four broad groups of societies which make up a hierarchical global stratification system. These include more economically developed countries; Newly industrialised countries; Less economically industrialised countries; Least economically developed countries. These categories show that there are different levels of development, and therefore to have just two simple categories would be to oversimplify development and may fail to recognise any success a country has gained, for example better standards of living.
Generally the definition of what constitutes development is the experiences of western nations, for example the social change which came with industrialisation meant economic and social benefits for the people in developed worlds, they enjoy good living standards, free education, good health care and long life expectancy. Therefore the basis of what constitutes development would be economic success of industrial capitalism and Westernisation, which would mean that world sociologists may have a biased outlook on the success of different countries. For Marxists this explanation of success would be a means to continue exploiting the poor whilst the bourgeoisie enjoy a rich lifestyle, Sachs and Esteva (1992) argue that development was always unjust, that it never worked and is a ‘hoax’ in that it was never designed to deal with humanitarian and environmental problems, rather another way of western countries to continue its dominance over the rest of the world. This is evident in that developmental strategies are often initiated by powerful Western countries, they provide the scarce resources and therefore strongly encourage the developing worlds to abandon traditional values, or other strategies of development. Galeano (1992) goes as far as to say ‘they train you to be paralysed, then they sell you to crutches.’ This again shows that the western culture has had a big impact on influencing what should be classed as development and what should not.
Another problem in relation to defining development is the measuring of development, those who favour the industrial – capitalist model favour an economic