Sunday, 12 April 2009


The Rich and the Poor - C. P. Snow


In this essay, C. P. Snow analyses the reasons for the disparity between the rich and the poor, the industrialized and the non-industrialized nations, and suggests that the only way out is through the scientific revolution. He then suggests ways by which it could be brought about in the poor nations.

Disparity between the Rich and the Poor:

According to the author, the disparity between the rich and the poor has been noticed.

The Rich Nations, according to him, are:
 The US
 White Commonwealth countries
 Great Britain
 Most of Europe and
 The USSR
And all the others are poor nations.

In the rich countries, people
1. live longer
2. eat better
3. work less
in the poor countries, people
1. live less,
2. eat less,
3. work more
Hence life for the great majority of mankind has always been nasty, brutish and short.

The West has got to help in this transformation of the poor countries: but the trouble is, the West with its divided culture cannot grasp the problem.

The Rate of Social Change during the Present and the Past:

During all human history until this century, the rate of social change has been very slow. But now, the rate of social change has increased so much. The poor countries have caught on to this simple concept.

The industrialization of Russia and China was brought about with inordinate effort and with great suffering. Much of the suffering was unnecessary, because technology is rather easy. Moreover, technology is the branch of human experience that people can learn with predictable results.

Scientific teachability: Common to all Nations:

For industrializing a major country as in China today, it only takes

1. Will, and
2. A few years, to train enough scientists, engineers, and technicians, because all countries are equal in scientific practice and there is no evidence that any country or race is better than any other in scientific teachability.

To prove this, the author says that Sicilian girls have taken the top places in Honours in Physics at the University of Rome. Even John Cockcroft who returned from Moscow said that, “skilled workmen at Moscow were just about the same as the ones at Metrovick.”

Possibility of Scientific Revolution in Poor Countries:

According to the author, it is technically possible to carry out the scientific revolution in India, Africa, South East Asia, Latin America and Middle East within fifty years. The three menaces which stand in our way are:
1. H Bomb
2. Over population
3. Gap between the rich and the poor.

The scientific revolution is the only way out of these menaces. Hence, the gap between the rich and the poor can be removed. But the questions are:
1. How
2. Whom

1. HOW:

There are only partial answers. The scientific revolution needs first and foremost – Capital.

The poor countries cannot accumulate capital. And that is why, the gap between the rich and the poor is widening. The capital must come from outside. Now, there are only two possible sources. One is, the West, the other is, the U.S.S.R, and neither can try to do it alone. But if they both took part, it would not mean a sacrifice at all. But the operation has to be a national one.

The second requirement after capital, as important as capital is – Men, that is, trained scientists and engineers who can devote their lives to a foreign country’s industrialization for at least ten years of their lives. The Russians can spare such men if they are needed, but we and the Americans have not.

2. WHOM:

We need men who would work as colleagues, who will pass on what they know, do an honest technical job and get out. Fortunately, scientists are free from racial feeling. Their culture is in its human relations, a democratic one. Hence, scientists would do us good all over Asia and Africa to the scientific revolution. This is an educational programme like the Chinese, who have transformed their universities and built so many new ones that they are now nearly independent of scientists and engineers from outside.

Education and Culture:

What we need is, scientific teachers and teachers of English from this country and the U.S; but, the question which is asked is, is this plan realistic? The author says that, in any case, we need to do it; for, if we don’t do it, the communist countries will do it.

Hence, we should emphasise on: 1. education, and
2. closing the gap between our cultures.

It is obligatory for us and the Americans and the whole West to look at our education with fresh eyes. The Americans and we should learn from each other and from the Russians. Similarly, the Russians have a good deal to learn from us too. Hence the author concludes by saying that, already it is time we brought about this transformation.


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