Friday, 23 October 2009

Against generalisations

Found myself reading the Economist the other day (not a thing I do often, just one of those magazines that comes free to flying travellers) and noticed that they no longer refer to developed/developing countries, or even industrialised/emerging economies. No, now they just say 'rich' countries. I couldn't find the matching term for the 'rest' (the 'other' as post-colonialists like to put it)- presumably even the Economist doesn't want to call them simply poor countries.

And I also couldn't work out which were the rich countries. America obviously. But China, Russia? What do they mean by rich? GNP? Lots of wealthy people? A booming economy? But it did get me thinking, because one of the things about living in Moscow compared to, say, London, is that the evidence/appearance of richess and poverty or development and 'backwardness' is endlessly and immediately somehow non-congruent, at the level of everyday experience. It is as if somewhere like London - despite its diversity and huge variations - nevertheless has an overall look of coherence about it. Moscow, on the other hand, (and maybe like many emerging economies) is such a mixed bag; the endless intersecting of traditional, Soviet, capitalist, regional and other histories and cultures on the streets of the city. One minute an elderly group standing on the pavement singing patriotic songs and waving the Red flag: the next some teenagers giggling together dressed as goths; then a proud poster for a new disabled toilet (in response to a campaign from artists and writers); and a street cleaner from one of the asian republics with a brush make of twigs, and a cart constructed from an old pram frame and a bucket.

I dont know how much of this feeling is because I am a foreigner here; when I talk to Russians about it, they also seem to believe that Russia is a strange place (which doesn't mean that they agree with what Westerners think is weird about it...)

1 comment:

  1. I'm not sure what airline you're on that gives free Economist magazines (I must know!) but I read it weekly (subscription) and they still refer to the third world as developing. Maybe it was just the issue you picked up?