Is the Brandt Line Irrelevant in the 21st Century?
The Brandt line is a visual representation of the ‘north-south divide’, separating the relatively poor continents from the ‘rich North’, which includes parts of Oceania. The line was constructed with a focus on economic development, and has been criticised for both its overgeneralisation, and, more recently, its outdatedness, having been produced in the 1980s.
The line depicts the disparity between broad economic situations in the hemispheres; MEDCs are generally found in the northern hemisphere, whilst poorer nations are, assumedly, predominantly in the southern hemisphere, with continents such as Africa and South America being connotational of underdevelopment. This point in particular has lead to increased uncertainty in the Brandt line’s relevance in the 21st century, as nations previously viewed as less well off have since developed; Brazil, for example, is now classified as a ‘newly industrialised country’, having developed subsequent to the line’s introduction, as evidenced by a sustained spike in its automobile production from the late 1990s.
The Brandt line is useful to some extent, as it provides a simplistic and tangible depiction of global wealth distribution. It successfully categorises the eastern Arab nations as less developed, giving the social development factor of (gender) equality importance over their substantial wealth.
The Brandt line is criticised for generalising not only continents, but also countries. Within Brazil, there is a high rural-urban Gini coefficient, which means that some cities’ CBDs are on the same scale of affluence as many MEDCs. This shows Brazil to have a wealth equality problem, which indicates a low level of development, thereby supporting the Brandt line, which places Brazil in the lower half. However, the converse is true of countries such as the USA, which contains regions with high poverty rates, such as Detroit, where nearly 50% of people have salaries of less than $25,000. This inconsistency in considering regional wealth disparity is evidence for the irrelevance of the Brandt line. It is also criticised for separating all countries into two distinct groups, whereas in reality many countries must fall between ‘MEDC’ and ‘LEDC’. Furthermore, it tends to ignore non-economic factors; Tonga, for example, has a low murder rate, suggesting at least some level of social development.
In conclusion, the Brandt line has never been an accurate representation of development, as it overgeneralises regions on both a national and continental level. Its relevance is only decreasing with time, as previously undeveloped nations industrialise and become economically orientated, even overtaking nations that the Brandt line considers to be MEDCs.
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