Academic journal article Forum on Public Policy: A Journal of the Oxford Round Table

'The Rich and the Poor': Eradicating Hunger in a "Global" Economy

Academic journal article Forum on Public Policy: A Journal of the Oxford Round Table

'The Rich and the Poor': Eradicating Hunger in a "Global" Economy

Article excerpt


This paper seeks to bring the Snow-Leavis controversy up-to-date, that is, to apply it to our contemporary world. The arguments of two contemporary authors, Jeffrey Sachs, The End of Poverty: Economic Possibilities of Our Time. New York: Penguin Books, 2005, and David Harvey, A Brief History of Neoliberalism. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005, are played off against one another to illuminate the present situation. Jeffrey Sachs is a Harvard economist who is currently an advisor to Kofi Annan at the United Nations in New York. His book was on the New York Times bestseller list for many weeks when it was first published. David Harvey is an academic who was a professor at Oxford University and the Johns Hopkins University and is currently Distinguished Professor of Anthropology at the Graduate School and University Center of the City University of New York. His book is directed at the specialist rather than at the general public, but it written in a very accessible manner.

In addition, references to popular culture, information from the internet, news reports from "the media" of television and The New York Times, are inserted throughout the paper to aid in exposing the situation of poverty in non-industrialized nations and in nations in the process of industrialization. An examination of such sources is a means for the Humanities to encourage students to think critically about the codes and signs that are embedded in the information with which the population is bombarded constantly. What emerges is a mosaic of sources that often contradict and sometimes support one another's assertions. Most importantly, Sachs and Harvey demonstrate that the Snow-Leavis controversy, 'The Rich and the Poor,' is still very much with us: How can the Sciences and the Humanities work together in wealthy nations to help underdeveloped nations to eliminate poverty?


When C.P. Snow delivered the Reade lecture, The Two Cultures, in 1959, there existed still in industrialized nations the belief that science could solve the world's ills. It was a natural reaction to the increasing pace of scientific discovery that had emerged since the end of World War II. The introduction of anti-biotics revolutionized medical science, making possible the control and in some cases the elimination of once widespread and often fatal diseases, including typhoid, plague, cholera and tuberculosis. Penicillin, the first widely used antibiotic, was effective against many staphylococcal infections. Jonas Salk's vaccine for polio was mass tested in 1954 and mass immunization programs followed soon after.

In the United States the economy was undergoing a post-war boom that was in large part fueled by the Marshall Plan to rebuild Europe. As the U.S. shifted from war production, telephones, televisions, cars, and home appliances, to name but a few, became affordable to the working class home for the first time in history.

At the same time nuclear physics reared its head and the Atom bomb, followed by the Hydrogen bomb, were born. Were they to put an end to war or to control a cold war? They succeeded in neither, yet they still stand as a threat to humanity today. The Humanities exhume our histories, study our languages, decipher our artistic production and place in philosophical terms what it is to be a human being. Without the humanities, discourses on the morality of war versus peace forced by mass destruction, the Feminist movement, the Civil Rights movement, Gay and Lesbian liberation, the investigation of the causes of Global Warming, International Trade Agreements, Religious Fundamentalism, and the struggle for greater freedoms which is by no means complete, would never have been undertaken. What I am arguing is that although in all human tasks, those engaged in day-to-day performance see a vast difference between one and the other, there is in actuality an interdependence and intermingling in human endeavors that apply to the Sciences and the Humanities as well. …

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