Social reform, asserted Confucius, begins with the rectification of names.
I can think of one case where he’s unquestionably right: the use of the word ‘developed’ as applied to certain wealthy and industrialized countries mostly found in western Europe and North America, but sprinkled elsewhere throughout the world. The widespread and unchallenged use of that word testifies to deep errors about the kind of world we live in — and the shocking poverty of social and historical imagination that has narrowed the vision of our chattering classes.
The word ‘developed’ contains an important assumption: that a historical process known as development (closely related to modernization — another problematic word) not only exists throughout the world, it culminates in a known end which has already been reached. This word implies that countries like France, Canada and our own happy United States of America have reached the end of history, the summit of human achievement, stable and enduring arrangements in political economy that are unlikely to change much going forward.