A general theory of the second virial coefficient of axially symmetric molecules is developed, the directional part of the intermolecular field being treated as a perturbation on the central-force part. The method is applicable to any type of intermolecular potential, particular models of directional interaction being obtained by suitable choices of parameters. Simple expressions are given for the second virial coefficient due to several types of directional force. The theory is illustrated by some calculations on the force field of carbon dioxide and its relation to the second virial coefficient and crystal data. These indicate that there is strong quadrupole interaction between carbon dioxide molecules.