Book Review: The Two Cultures by C. P. Snow (Three Stars)

Book Review: The Two Cultures by C. P. Snow

Three Stars out of Five

I read this (the original, published in 1959) in college. It was assigned reading. The premise, that mankind was dividing into two separate and non-communicating communities of arts and science, didn’t seem revolutionary then. The poles still exist today, but are even less evident among the many other polarizations in current culture: economic, religious, political and ethnic.

Form the vantage point of fifty years of actual observation, the polarizations persist not because they are natural but because they are convenient. Humans seem to thrive on “us and them” dichotomies. We create them. We feed them. We make jokes about them: “There are two types of people; …”

And yet it also seems we ignore them, as we actually live our lives. There may be scientists (certainly engineers) who have no artistic impulse, but many more who do. And many people straddle divides every day, even as they may identify with this or that community.

Robert Frost was right. Building walls doesn’t make better neighbors, but we build them anyway. Partly from fear; partly of necessity; mostly (I think) from habit.

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