Did the world just get simpler?

Among our many neuroses, we right on development types like to agonise about what words to use to describe countries. Low, middle and high income? Bit technocratic and reductionist for many. ‘Developed’ and ‘developing’? Too value laden for some tastes, and implying that we in, say, Europe, are at some ‘end of history’ type nirvana which others are struggling to emulate. ‘First’ and ‘Third’ worlds? Even more value laden and with some anachronistic Cold War overtones for good measure.

Oh how we worry. But recently I’ve noticed that the one I used to find most annoying – ‘North’ and ‘South’ – seems to be gaining ground on the others[1].  I use it more and more myself (yeah, hypocrite…).  What’s the appeal? It’s suitably vague to not have the overly prescriptive drawbacks of the others, yet there’s just enough in it for people to know (or think they know) what you mean. It’s got more political and less technical implications, which often suits the thing that people are trying to get across more than narrowly economic categories.

Of course it’s ludicrously simplistic, but maybe that’s the point.


[1] Or is it just me?