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International Socialism, Summer 1964

Bert Benson


From International Socialism (1st series), No.17, Summer 1964, p.31.
Thanks to Ted Crawford & the late Will Fancy.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.

The Student in the Age of Anxiety
F. Zweig
Heinemann, 30s.

This is a pot-boiler. The method and the generalisations are not to be taken seriously but some information in the loose text is interesting. The individual interview supplemented by other sources is used to survey student opinion at Oxford and Manchester. Topics include personal aspirations, views on politics, sex, work, religion, the USA, the USSR, the Monarchy, newspaper preferences and many aspects of university life and its relation to the larger world.

One tit-bit is that working class type vacation jobs at Manchester are ‘practically worthless ... from the point of view of study.’ Not so at Oxford. The author’s interpretation is given by quoting a Manchester student:

‘In the choice of jobs one could see, “the working chap coming back to the fold. I wonder how much of the university work is being undone during the vacation.”’

Questions about sex were, ‘never addressed to girl students’ or to married ones. Vance Pickard is a ‘sociologist ‘ and Proust is a ‘modern English writer’ read at Oxford.

Little else is surprising, little of importance depends on the interview, and opinions assessed this way are uncertain indicators of what people do or will do. In fact, even for a popular sociological survey, the method restricts the picture it frames: it not only does not represent, it distorts. Yet in this anecdotal study it serves as a ‘scientific tool’ to buttress the commonplace. Students are found to be serious and conforming and there are differences between the universities.

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