From International Socialism, No.19, Winter 1964/5, p.32.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.
The Two Cultures: A Second Look
Cambridge, 10s. 6d.
In 1959 Snow first used the concept of the two cultures, ranging the scientists against the literary intellectuals. Four years later Snow added a third culture, that of the social scientists. We may infer that by then news of their doings had reached High Table.
Primarily Snow’s essay discusses a fairly simple sociological notion, that differing occupational roles are associated with differing role behaviour and expectations. He postulated certain features, such as that all scientists are progressive, but is conscious of subdivisions, chemists being conservative and biochemists left-oriented. Members of the third cultural group will find this very reasonable though perhaps not very exciting.
What is more open to questioning are the methods by which Snow seeks to support his argument. He brings a random set of literary figures, as notable for its omissions as its inclusions; a bizarre quotation from Lawrence; names of lots of Oxbridge personalities and several well-turned anecdotes. Yet these are not the stuff to underpin social theory. The essay is like an elaborate dinner-table game which has no meaning and no end but is tremendous fun for the competitors. Rutherford is bid for the scientists, but is checked by a Teller; a counterbid is made for the literary intellectuals with Brecht, but (accepting Snow for now) this is checked in turn by a Lawrence. The book, to sum up, merits perhaps not so much a second look as an interesting and stimulating second glance.
Last updated on 5.9.2007