The Political Scientist Essay Research Paper The

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The Political Scientist Essay, Research Paper The political scientistThe brain on Steven Rose’s desk is a greenish-yellowy- gray, suspended in clear fluid inside a Perspex case. It looks as if it is made of plastic, but it is a real human brain, smooth-surfaced, alien, and remote. It was given to Rose when he became professor of biology at the Open University in 1968, aged 30; it stays there now he has retired from administration and only does research. This single, disembodied brain fits neatly in the gap between his lives as a scientist and as a political activist. As a scientist, he has spent 40 years looking at brain process on the smallest, most detailed scale possible: his imagination was captured by a Swedish scientist who could cut out and study individual neurones.

But as a polemicist on the left, he has spent nearly as much time arguing that completely individual minds cannot exist: “Brains do not work with information in the computer sense, but with meaning. And meaning is historically and developmentally shaped.” One result is his curiously split reputation: Professor Jekyll and Comrade Hyde. He walks with the stoop of an academic but sits with his head cocked, alert like a boxer: “Combat is forced upon me,” he says. “I don’t go looking for combats. But they find me. When what I regard as bad or mistaken ideas are non-trivial, they need combating.” In print he can be ferocious, especially when collaborating with his wife Hilary, the sociologist. The book against evolutionary psychology they recently edited, Alas,Poor Darwin

(Jonathan Cape), was a great deal more aggressive than some of the contributors had hoped. “He may be the last of the Marxist radical scientists,” says his friend and collaborator Patrick Bateson, now provost of King’s College, Cambridge, “but he won’t be the last radical. Steven is not always right; but he has been very brave in some of the things he has said. He can be astonishingly articulate in circumstances where I would simply seize up. And he does have the most extraordinary energy.” The politics predate the science in his life: his family was shaped by poverty, pride and anti-semitism. All four grandparents were immigrants: his father was “born above a tailor’s shop” in Mare Street, Hackney, east London. His paternal grandmother died young of TB, and

when his grandfather remarried, his father and brother was sent away to a Jewish boys’ orphanage in north London. Despite this, his father managed to get himself trained in night school and even found a job as an industrial chemist in the middle of the depression, though he had to change his name from Rosenberg to Rose to do so. Steven’s parents married in 1935: his mother came from the slightly richer family, as her father, a cabinet maker, had been left a small factory making carpenter’s planes by his childless employer. Steven was born in 1938, by which time his father was working as a schoolteacher, because the chemicals he had worked with in industry made him ill. Rose senior volunteered as soon as the war started, joined up as a private and left as a major. Afterwards

he worked as a full-time “anti-fascist organiser” for the Association of Jewish ex-Servicemen. Rose’s parents had another son at the end of the war, Nik, now professor of sociology at Goldsmith’s College, London. The two brothers are distantly affectionate, but the eight years between them meant that they did not share much of a childhood. “Steven’s a wonderful man. That’s really all I can say about him,” says Nik. For Steven Rose, politics began early and rough. “My earliest political memories are from about 1948: I was standing in Ridley Road, and my father was speaking against the fascists. Mosley’s armoured cars came past and the stones began to fly. There were people chanting ‘The Yids, the Yids. We’ve got to get rid of the Yids!’. That was before