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The Open Society and Its Enemies, Vol. 2: The High Tide of Prophecy [Paperback]

Karl R. Popper
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Feb. 21 1971 069101972X 978-0691019727 5

Popper was born in 1902 to a Viennese family of Jewish origin. He taught in Austria until 1937, when he emigrated to New Zealand in anticipation of the Nazi annexation of Austria the following year, and he settled in England in 1949. Before the annexation, Popper had written mainly about the philosophy of science, but from 1938 until the end of the Second World War he focused his energies on political philosophy, seeking to diagnose the intellectual origins of German and Soviet totalitarianism. The Open Society and Its Enemies was the result.

In the book, Popper condemned Plato, Marx, and Hegel as "holists" and "historicists"--a holist, according to Popper, believes that individuals are formed entirely by their social groups; historicists believe that social groups evolve according to internal principles that it is the intellectual's task to uncover. Popper, by contrast, held that social affairs are unpredictable, and argued vehemently against social engineering. He also sought to shift the focus of political philosophy away from questions about who ought to rule toward questions about how to minimize the damage done by the powerful. The book was an immediate sensation, and--though it has long been criticized for its portrayals of Plato, Marx, and Hegel--it has remained a landmark on the left and right alike for its defense of freedom and the spirit of critical inquiry.

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A modern classic. - The Independent

A brilliant polemic It remains the best intellectual defence of liberal democracy against know-it-all totalitarianism. - The Economist

This is a work of great interest and significance, stimulating and suggestive throughout. Dr Poppers virtues are manifold. He has a great fertility of ideas. Almost every sentence gives us something to think about. - G.C. Field, Philosophy --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

About the Author

Karl Popper (1902-1994). Philosopher, born in Vienna. One of the most influential and controversial thinkers of the twentieth century. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
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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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars As timely today as it was when written May 21 2004
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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5.0 out of 5 stars A great and thoughtful read. Jan. 23 2003
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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5.0 out of 5 stars One of my favorites! Dec 7 2002
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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Most recent customer reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars The Poverty of Karl Popper's Thought
To begin with,the word "totalitarianism" only came into existence in the 20th century or rather the late 19th century. Read more
Published on Sept. 16 2003
5.0 out of 5 stars Read the second volume first
This second volume of this two volume book is more about what lead to and became the economic historicism of Marx and its consequences. Read more
Published on June 4 2003 by Davin Enigl
2.0 out of 5 stars misleading and impertinent
What else could I think of this book when I find Popper, today an almost forgotten philosopher, making fun of one of the greatest minds in history, like Aristotle? Read more
Published on Nov. 28 2002
5.0 out of 5 stars The one and only, the one that made the difference
I read Open Society when I was a teenager. It was the book of my life. I had never been interested in philosophy or read anything of this kind. Read more
Published on Aug. 18 2002 by Buenoslibros.es
5.0 out of 5 stars great liberal, no friend to dogmatic libertarians
Karl Popper stood against all forms of dogmatism. Popper's ideas were used for ideological purposes during the Cold War, and continue to be used today by libertarians and... Read more
Published on Jan. 29 2002 by Autonomeus
5.0 out of 5 stars Popper's "war work" still speaks to us
Karl Popper's two-volume tracing of the philosophical ancestry of 20th Century totalitarianism remains for me a marvelous work. Read more
Published on June 23 2000 by Mark J. Ross
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic work in both philosophy and social thought
This book is not merely a classic of social thought, it is also a classic of philosophical history and political and social science. Read more
Published on Feb. 23 2000 by Greg Nyquist
5.0 out of 5 stars "deconstructing heidegger"
"deconstructing heidegger"
Popper's attempt at saving the Western World, part II. After refuting Plato in part I -to many shocking and "a priori"... Read more
Published on July 20 1999
5.0 out of 5 stars "deconstructing heidegger"
Popper's attempt at saving the Western World, part II. After refuting Plato in part I -to many shocking and "a priori" intellectually suicidal already- Popper went one... Read more
Published on Feb. 22 1998
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