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The Two Cultures (Canto Classics) Paperback – March 26, 2012

3.4 out of 5 stars 23 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Stefan Collini's introduction and annotation of this new edition of the lecture not only help to contextualize and rehabilitate it but also bring to the surface ideas that have relevance today as academics and educationalists try to address the increasing division between science and the humanities."
Yvone Lysandrou, Morning Star

"Both the lecture itself and the controversy it spawned are complex phenomena, and in his editions of Snow's lecture and of the most famous response to it, by the literary critic F. R. Leavis, Stefan Collini has carefully and skillfully disentangled the many strands. The tale he tells is instructive in many respects - and perhaps more important now than it was when Leavis gave his response, fifty years ago."
Alan Jacobs, Books and Culture

Book Description

This fiftieth anniversary printing of The Two Cultures and its successor piece, A Second Look (in which Snow responded to the controversy four years later) features an introduction by Stefan Collini, charting the history and context of the debate, its implications and its afterlife.
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Product Details

  • Series: Canto Classics
  • Paperback: 179 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; Reissue edition (March 26, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1107606144
  • ISBN-13: 978-1107606142
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.4 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #351,177 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback
In today's society, Liberal Arts people call scientists "nerds." Scientists call liberal arts people "fuzzies" or "bohemians." Both hold misconceptions about each other that are sometimes true and sometimes not. This classic book talks about and tries to promote cooperation between these "two cultures." Writing about his experience as a person trained in science but pursuing a writing career, Snow precisely identifies the problems of the two cultures miscommunicating with each other. It was written in the late 1950s, in Britain, so the American reader might not understand all the references. Still, Snow's work has influenced a wide range of contemporary thinkers, and has been in no small part an influence on the "writing across the curriculum" movement in American universities. Whether you are interested in the humanities or the sciences, this book clearly will show you the tensions you will face dealing with the "other culture," and the problems such stereotypes pose for mod
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Format: Paperback
The Two Cultures is probably more famous as an idea which ignited discussion than as the lecture it is. This edition of C.P. Snow's classic includes a brilliant introduction by Stefan Collini. I'm surprised that none of the other reviewers mention this portion of the edition, a substantial 64 pages, because for me it was the most interesting read. That is, only after having read The Two Cultures and a follow-up essay by Snow and pondered what may still apply today in his argument I went back and read the Collini. His introduction put Snow's work in its proper historical contexts (those of post-war Britain as well as Snow's own life) and updates us with some of the major points of the historical discourse that followed. I recommend that Collini's essay is read after Snow's, and together they make a very fine read.
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Every representation I've seen of this work was wrong, or so incomplete as to be gravely misleading. As usual, the glib sound-biters omit not only the interesting parts of the points they quote, they omit the real point of the essay.
If anyone reads the second half of this essay, they see that it writes about the widening gap between rich countries and poor - the technologically trained and untrained. Yes, Snow writes about the schism and even mutual suspicion between the communities of liberal arts and hard sciences. That's just a fact, at least as true now as it was 45 years ago. That is not what's interesting.
The consequence is what matters. Overpopulation, mass starvation, and destruction by war or disease are political problems. The solutions must involve tools provided by technology. The tragedy of "the two cultures" is the breakdown between the politicians who must wield the tools and the technologists who must create them. This is not about technology controlling the world, it is about creating a generation of thinkers who can reason about both social and technical problems. It is about education that allows people to examine the physical facts of the physical world that underly so many curable causes of human misery. It is about understanding the technology of possible solutions well enough to weigh the costs and rewards in a rational way.
As I write this, the 2000-era Bush administration is busy firing science advisors who don't give the "right" answer, is cancelling the space research programs that have given the largest volume of new knowledge, and creating new scorched-earth policies for environmental management. It's a problem not just in the US, but worldwide. This is exactly the failure that Snow hoped so fervently that educated men and women would have the wisdom to prevent.
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Format: Paperback
This book defines the irrational and dangerous gulf that divides our artistic-intellectual community from our scientific. Its first publication was explosive, its effect historic. Written with the grace of a major novelist and the elegance of pure scientist, it was, and is, an original. A true original. Of how many books can one say, "It changed the way we think?" This single, short book did exactly that. It does that still.
Let's call it a must read.
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Format: Paperback
Why Can't We Just Get Along?

Rodney King's famous complaint could apply just as well to this compilation of CP Snow's classic, and updated, lecture and the dialogue it created. Just as useful, Snow actually offered a way ahead on answering the question. Part of the problem, as the lecture made clear, was the issue of overspecialization in education--an error of opposite and equal proportions to overgeneralization in education. As it turns out, the world needs both specialists and generalists--as well as though rare individuals who are polymaths (multitalented experts at whatever they choose to do--Da Vinci, Napoleon, T. Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, Lee Kuan Yew). He identifies the key problem, that in forging an identity for oneself, either in the humanities or the sciences, one often comes to disesteem "the other." Americans seem very prone to this. This argument applies to any two cultures sort of dynamic--military versus civilian, doctors versus lawyers, faithful versus agnostic or atheist, educated versus uneducated, blue collar versus white collar--and so is useful beyond the bounds of simply considering scientists versus the liberal arts. Highly recommended--I would direct readers directly to the lecture first, and then the commentaries.

John T. Kuehn. Ph.D. (History)
Master of Science in Systems Engineering
Commander US Navy
Fort Leavenworth, KS
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