In the current state of the world, there are societies that experience a life of opulence and comfort. Most of these societies are located in the west, mainly in the United States and the European countries. However, these states do not comprise fifty percent of the world. In fact, United States and Europe are only a particle of a territory in comparison to the areas which mainly host the Third World countries.
The terminology “Third World” was formerly utilized during the Cold War era to pertain to a nation which did not participate in or interfere with the war between United States and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). When the Cold War ended, the definition of Third World changed to refer to a country that does not have the economic capability to compete with other economically developed states. The book written by John Ibister discusses various issues that are associated with the reasons behind the current situation of the Third World countries.
The book “Promises not Kept” is a well-acknowledged book due to the very compelling discussion of John Isbister regarding the Third World nations. In the book, the author was able to segregate the issues with regard to the third world countries, including general issues such as a world of poverty, explanations of Underdevelopment, Imperialism, Nationalism and Independence, Economic Development, Foreign Policy, and Into the Future.
By separately exploring such topics, Isbister was able to explain and expound the real dilemma of the third world countries in the present international community. In exploring the social, political, economic, and environmental issues, Isbiter first laid down the current situation of poverty. In the first chapter, he narrates through the use of five different stories of real people whom he believes are directly affected by poverty. The people who Isbiter interviewed came from Third World countries and are said to be in the lowest of the low in terms of ranking in the world.
As a reader, the personal perspectives of the people who are experiencing direct poverty are one of the most enlightening components of the book for me, as it vividly presents the experiences of people living in poverty from different parts of the world, mostly from the African, Asian, and Latin American regions which are known to be mostly affected by cultural norms and economic poverty. Through the help of the interviews which were cited in the book, the poverty being experienced by the people makes it more realistic for the reader.
The words which were directly quoted from various individuals may be an instrument for the readers to comprehend the reality of poverty—that there are people who experience such a difficult life. Thus, for people who live a life of convenience, the book may serve as a wake up call that may help increase their awareness on the harsh realities that poverty brings. Isbister also stated that in reality, “Poverty has dimensions” (17). This suggests that poverty has many faces; it manifests in various conditions, as exemplified by the kind of life that the interviewees lead.
In fact, the author stated that “Absolute poverty is a standard of living so pressing that it brings with it life-threatening malnutrition and disease” (17). Having said such, Isbister narrated that Jeffrey Sachs, who is the director of the United Nations Millennium Development Project, was able to estimate that there are people who live in less than $1. 08 a day. With such study, it is obviously very shocking that there are people who are able to live with a very small amount of money.
In addition, most poor families living such kind of lifestyle are composed of more than three members. With such a situation, it is really unimaginable that these families are able to survive. Adding up to the very low income that people are receiving from the Third World country, Isbister explained that there are other consequences that exacerbate the problematic situation of the poor such as: “Low life expectancy, adult illiteracy, underweight children, inadequate housing, child labor, food insecurity, and lack of access to safe water, health services and sanitation” (17).
Because of the difficulties that extreme poverty brings upon the people who live in such impoverished conditions, several international organizations are currently extending help to the impoverished in terms of monetary funding. The World Trade Organization (WTO) has been one of the most active organizations in giving finance to states that need to recuperate from the economic crisis. During the 1970’s to the 1980’s, the WTO was able to provide funding to various countries that were affected by the economic crisis.
After such an event, due to various dilemmas in oil and businesses around the world, the economy of most developing countries suddenly experienced a downfall. Instead of having the expected economic boom of the countries that were provided with loans, most of their economies collapsed instead, making their situation worse. Most analysts stated that the strict policies which were provided by many nations were ineffective and did not suit the national policies of the loaning states.
In fact, Isbister stated that, “the prosperous countries and their institutions […] powerfully affect the constraints within which the third world must determine its future. Having played a central role in the creation of the world’s inequities, they could allow themselves to be used constructively” (28). Therefore, providing funding to these Third World countries was equated to political and economic gains of the actors such as politicians. Given such, more problems emerged.
Isbister believed that the theory of historical imperialism which greatly contributed to the poverty of the world was highlighted. During the time of imperialism and conquering, many states had become independent towards their colonizers. Due to the long time that the colonizers spent in their occupied country, the people within their commands learned to be dependent to their foreign counterparts. In reality, the colonizers had done such strategy in order for the people of the colonized state to not defy them or to make it believe that it cannot progress without a foreign domination.
The imperialism theory could actually be linked in accordance to dependency theory because the influence of the colonizers had foremost affected and influenced the colonies. At some point, the colonies had the tendency to ask for foreign assistance in order to achieve economic and political success. In addition, the strategy has become very effective that until this very day, the effects and influences of the colonizers can still be observed in their colonies such that of the countries located in Asia, Latin America, and Africa.
In conclusion, the book is filled with many engaging and realistic details which are very useful for historical purposes, as it provides the reasons why the third world countries are currently in their position. The theories which are highlighted in the book are very reasonable and accurate that the readers are fully educated with regard to the situations which are provided to them. In addition, the interview which was placed within the first part of the book was very helpful.
As a reader, before presenting the theories and concepts, I prefer to know first of the actual situation of the subject in order to relate and fully comprehend the concepts that the author would be discussing in the book. The whole book mainly discusses about poverty and what we as individuals who are in an increasingly blessed state must do to help and provide adequate assistance to address the problems of humanity.
In addition, cultural and traditional concepts of various societies are also one of the main problems that must be able to be addressed so that equality would be attained. At the last chapter of the book, it could be noted that the author provided ways in which the world would be able to direct the issues that surround the Third World nations. Hopefully, by believing that the Third World countries would still change and develop, there will be a positive transformation and progress in these parts of the world.