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The Open Society and Its Enemies, Vol. 2: The High Tide of Prophecy Paperback – Feb 21 1971


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press; 5 edition (Feb. 21 1971)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 069101972X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691019727
  • Product Dimensions: 2.6 x 14 x 21.6 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 386 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #219,945 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents


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The task of writing a history of the ideas in which we are interested-of historicism and its connection with totalitarianism-will not be attempted here. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Davin Enigl on June 4 2003
Format: Paperback
This second volume of this two volume book is more about what lead to and became the economic historicism of Marx and its consequences. I suggest you read this econd volume before the volume 1. Why? The most important parts are about reasoning. Reasoning why people act the why they do and then you will see much better why Popper is opposed to Plato in volume 1's argument.
The main body of this book provides the best argument I have seen against a closed-totalitarian society. It is a must read for Libertarians and U.S. Republicans for sure. The Liberal U.S. Democrats will not like it at all, -- the Conservative Democrats will probably like it. The UK Classical Liberals will almost certainly side with Popper.
For some reason the idea that Plato was pro-Totalitarianism and a Racialist was not brought forth in any of the schools I attended. Well, this book's volume 1 certainly corrects that oversight.
Even if you are opposed to Popper, his argument must be answered if you are going to be taken seriously in a debate. You will get a coherent historical line of thought from Plato all the way up to current Totalitarianism esp. Communism. If you are a totalitarian now, you might not be one after you read these books -- or you are going be to better prepared to defend yourself.
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Popper attempts - and largely succeeds - in puncturing the myth that authoritarian societies are in any way superior to Open Societies. This is an important message, particularly in this morally relativistic age where intellectual support (and justification) of authoritarian regimes is at an all-time high. The terrible truth is that totalitarian regimes do horrible things to their own people without qualms.
Popper demolishes the idea that a planned society is somehow preferable to a free one. A planned society is necessarily a static society, i.e. Eastern Europe and the USSR since 1945; the exact opposite is true of dynamic, continually evolving open societies. A casual look will convice all except the loonies still "waiting for the Revolution" that a liberal, market-driven culture produces goods and services that an authoritarian one cannot.
But his other arguement is deeper, more subtle. An open society is intrinsically more powerful for its intellectual machinery. It is not the material wealth of the West that should be admired (or disparaged if you are of that type). It is our intellectual dominance - particularly the US - that is so overwhelming. And it is true in all areas - scientific research, inventions, art, music, science...open societies excel, planned societies falter.
This is Popper's strongest arguement for an open society - the relationship between economic and political freedom. It is not possible to have one without the other over the long haul. Yet, Popper touches on what might be considered the greatest weakness of our own success - the idea that material wealth leads does not require political freedom or participation.
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What I particularly liked about Popper's book was its accessibility. He does not entirely avoid jargon (historicism), but he explains whatever philosophical jargon he does use in a straightforward and understandable way. Because he writes so clearly, the reader can really feel he is participating, by reading, in a meaningful way, in an important debate.
Some philosophers seem to revel in the obscurity of their expressed thoughts. Popper on the other hand seems to express his ideas in a clear and direct fashion. Refreshingly, he skewers pomposity, pretence and philosophical obfuscation (on this last, he is highly critical of Hegel).
The accessibility of the ideas in the book makes one think that this is the way philosophy should be written, sets a standard of clarity, and is a good invitation to further reading and reflection. His systematic logical development of ideas, by making historical or literary observations, and working out the logical consequences, demonstrates the possibilities of analytical reasoning applied to philosophical issues.
This is a book about political philosophy. What was particularly striking was the contrast in point of view he paints between Plato's desire, as Popper describes it, to avoid change, and the measures that Plato was prepared to advocate in order to avoid change on the one hand, and on the other hand the perspectives of an open society. How valid all of his criticisms are I am unsure; I subsequently read that some Platonists have taken issue with Popper's analysis and conclusions.
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I first read Open Society a year and a half ago (reading volume 2 first.) I've come back to many of its quotes and arguments since, so I recently reread it and let me tell you - it's better the second time.
Popper's goal is to go through (in brief) some of the worlds most mistaken large-name philosophers who he feels were responsible for creating closed social systems. This second volume focuses on Hegel (from an Aristotlean tradition) and Marx. Hegel alone is enough to earn Popper 5 stars as anyone who can (at least attempt to) explain the dialectic in anything approaching language is an amazing feat. In fact, a few reviewers below take issue with Popper's 'mischaracterization' of Hegel but due to Hegels chimeric and unintelligible explanations, I would suspect that no correct representation would be possible. In fact, this is one of Popper's arguments and that, in itself, is about as close to the truth of Hegel as one could get.
Marx simply transforms Hegelian dialectic into a (to his credit) more intelligible, material one. Here, we get into crucial discussion of historicism and any deterministic system trying to plan history in advance. This, Popper notes, ALWAYS leads to totalitarian thinking as when one accepts the a priori 'direction' of history, one will become slave to she who dictates it (i.e., Marx or Lenin).
Honestly, even if these parts of the book were never written, the list price is more then returned to the reader by the ending essays, where Popper discusses 'the sociology of knowledge' and why most ideas therein are antithetical to open societies. Popper's prose throughout the book is clear, entertaining and unrelenting. Trust me, you will be as entertained as you will informed. (can be read without prior reading of part 1)
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