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Is the Brandt Line Irrelevant in the 21st Century?

Updated on May 26, 2016
The Brandt line
The Brandt line | Source

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.

How relevant do you think the Brandt line is today?

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    • Nellieanna profile image

      Nellieanna Hay 

      2 years ago from TEXAS

      It's interesting, Tom Groves. I confess I was not aware of this imaginary divisional line, but now that I am, if anyone asks me my opinion about it, I can say, knowledgeably, "Why, yes, it is an interesting supposition, is it not, - as if people are so easily categorized!" Also I had occasion to look up MEDC and appreciate that! Good acronym. Thank you.

      I'm reminded of some theory I read about some time in the past, proposing that human development and history have been characterized by development of civilizations and powerful countries arising in the south where physical and climate conditions are easier for pursuing study and art, or are at least less limiting.

      But then, after developing lush civilizations, the rulers and people become soft and self-indulgent, so they succumb to more barbaric, ruthless and strong invaders from the north. Eventually, after the invaders conquer to become the rulers and citizens of those settlements, they, too, become entrenched in their easier life-styles, also becoming soft and susceptible to their own excesses and to being conquered by people further north who are still rangy and more virile. And so it goes . . . according to that theory.

      Thank you for following me! I shall check in to more of your hubs!

    • Mel Carriere profile image

      Mel Carriere 

      2 years ago from San Diego California

      I voted "slightly." People in think tanks get paid a lot of money to come up with these generalizations. Damn I wish I could get one of those jobs. I think this line provides a good general picture, but of course there are going to be exceptions within its boundaries. Great hub.

    • Blond Logic profile image

      Mary Wickison 

      2 years ago from Brazil

      I had never heard of this before I read this article.

      I live in Brazil and there is a huge divide of wealth and poverty. This however isn't in different states or parts of the country. I have seen a man with a donkey and cart collecting plastics for recycling passed by on the road by a new Range Rover. The gap here is very evident.

      Equally in the US, so many are living in poverty therefore the line isn't that accurate.

      Interesting though.

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