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The Open Society and Its Enemies Paperback – Apr 4 2011

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 800 pages
  • Publisher: Routledge; Revised ed. edition (March 20 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0415610214
  • ISBN-13: 978-0415610216
  • Product Dimensions: 15.6 x 4.6 x 23.4 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 Kg
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #141,546 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


'Some time ago a wise old man came to see me in Prague and I listened to him with admiration. Shortly afterwards I learned that this man had died. His name was Karl Popper'. - Vaclav Havel, from the Preface '!a work of first-class importance which ought to be widely read for its masterly criticism of the enemies of democracy, ancient and modern. ..The book is a vigorous and profound defence of democracy, timely, very interesting, and very well written.' - Bertrand Russell 'One of the great books of the century' - The Times '!a modern classic' The Independent 'Few philosophers!have combined such a vast width of knowledge with the capacity to produce important original ideas as he did.' - The Guardian '!a powerful and important book. Dr Popper writes with extreme clarity and vigour. His studies in Greek history and Greek thought have obviously been profound and original. Platonic exegesis will never be the same again. Nor, I think, will Marxist exegesis.' - Gilbert Ryle '! a brilliant polemic. ..It remains the best intellectual defence of liberal democracy against know-it-all totalitarianism.' - The Economist

About the Author

Sir Karl Popper was one of the foremost philosophers of the Twentieth century. Born in Vienna in 1902, Popper grew up in a city witnessing great intellectual ferment. His relationship with the philosophers and scientists led to his first book, The Logic of Scientific Discovery, published in 1934. On its publication in English in 1959 it was described by The New Scientist as ‘one of the most important documents of the twentieth century’. On the eve of World War Two Popper was forced to flee to New Zealand, where he took up a teaching post at Canterbury University College at Christchurch. It was there, reflecting on the tyranny sweeping through Eastern Europe, that he wrote The Open Society and Its Enemies, published in 1945. In 1946 Popper moved to the London School of Economics, where he taught until his retirement in 1969. This period saw the publication of The Poverty of Historicism, described by the Sunday Times as ‘probably the only book which will outlive this century’. He was knighted in 1965 and appointed Companion of Honour in 1982. He died in 1994.

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Popper attempts to lay out, the philosophical underpinnings of an authoritarian or closed society. Popper starts off, by examining the political works of Plato. Plato did not believe in democracy. Plato was in favour of a society, administered by a ruling elite class. In Plato`s opinion, the great unwashed were incapable of governing a country. The masses should be uneducated and restricted to menial work. The ruling elite must be segregated from the rest of society, and abstain from any money making activities. Plato believed the pursuit of wealth, would only lead to the corruption of the ruling class.

In the later half of the book, Popper examines the work of Hegel and Marx. Both National Socialism and Russian Communism were structured on Hegel and Marx`s ideas. In the case of Carl Marx, Popper deciphers a lot of information. He points out areas of disagreement, and as well agreeing with Marx on several points.

The whole idea of the book, is to point out the reasons behind a closed society. It is important for an open society, to understand how and why a totalitarian society exists. Popper is hoping these understandings, will help prevent an open society from descending into a despotic rule.
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A re-read. If you want to understand what the thinking man thought about societal changes through the thirties up to the end of World War II this is a good guide. Moreover the essence of the book is still truly relevant today.

This should be required reading for all politicians in all countries. Putin et al would learn from it though I doubt he would apply it. Most American politicians could benefit too. A nice balance to J K Galbraith.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0xa5f06a58) out of 5 stars 7 reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa784c5e8) out of 5 stars A truly great book Jan. 22 2014
By Gordon McQueen - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I read this book at age 27 and understood little of it. I read it again at 35 and began to understand it. I read it again at 41 and breathed it in like fresh air. I have just read it again at 48 and find so much more in it than I found even at the last reading. This is a book to be read and re-read, deeply understood, and mined for it's multitude of ideas and arguments. 5 stars indeed - I love this book.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa784c834) out of 5 stars Very interesting philosophical insights Feb. 22 2013
By J. Miller - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is an excellent work to read if you would like to think about what an "open society" is, and how it can be defended from the forces of what Karl Popper calls "historicist" thinking (which, in his view, leads to totalitarian modes of thought and utopian social engineering.) Popper's critique of Plato's political thought is especially interesting, as Popper claims that the totalitarian ideas which plagued the 20th Century -- most specifically Communism and National Socialism -- had their intellectual roots in Plato's writings. A fascinating read.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa784c7f8) out of 5 stars The Enemies at your Gate May 25 2015
By Sundiver - Published on
Format: Paperback
Karl Popper is a philosopher of science of austrian origin and renowned for his groundbreaking work on “critical rationalism”.

His reflexions on the “falsifiability” of theories - a hallmark of genuine science - have been influential ever since and are easily misunderstood by the scientifically naive for being “anti-science”. Basically the term can be equated with “testable”. The reason why a negative outcome seems more conclusive is better understood by taking ino account that a positive outcome only confirms a facet of the scientific model of reality, which is never complete. You are probably approaching “truth” as long your theories are being “verified” but you are definitely on the wrong track whenever they are “falsified”. However, for those pursuing “truth” even that outcome is a gem of insight.

In his seminal work “The Open Society and Its Enemies” Karl Popper lays out, the philosophical origins of totalitarian ideas and hasn’t lost one iota of insightfulness. If you are tempted to think that Western “democracies” are further away from totalitarianism than the “People’s Republic of China” you might better think twice once you take into account the power of unelected oligarchs, most visible in the form of the contemporary “European Union”.

For a moment I was tempted to dispose of the book prematurely. The ideas of Plato seemed amateurish, arrogant and elitist to an extent that inevitably arose the question whether the problem was Plato himself or rather Popper’s elaborations.

However, it proved worthwhile to endure the initial drudgery and what remains is a deep disillusion with this “great” philosopher from antiquity. Still, disillusion is the end of an “illusion” and a such invaluable.

The reason why I bought this book in the first place was a debate with political agitators from the extreme-left, true minions of the “politically correct” cast and hard core “Alynskite” in the worst sense.

Ironically, the most extreme among them used to call on “Karl Popper” and his concept of falsification to routinely dismiss objections as if it was an argument in itself. Knowing only quotes from Karl Popper it was a mystery to me that apparent enemies of free thought could plead to K. Popper’s authority. I simply wanted wanted to "understand" this contradictory mindset and don’t get me wrong: Trying to understand a position is not to be confused with sharing it.

If you see Plato advocating totalitarian and elitist ideas in his writings, abusing Socrates as fictitious speaker against the Sophists you get a thorough insight into the character and integrity of this “master thinker” of antiquity.

The Sophists are obviously appreciated by Popper for their free and liberal thinking. Notably Protagoras and Gorgias are depicted as promoting an egalitarian humanism and being defenders of the athenian democracy. It is telling that in some people have denigrated Sophists, giving the term “sophistry" a derogatory twist.

Totalitarianism is still virulent in this world and the reason why it might escape your attention is that the same phenomena is rebranded and relabelled time and again. More often than not this is done consciously to obfuscate the truth on current political and religious affairs.

Popper elaborates extensively on the Hegel and his nefarious influence on German intellectual:

"Hegel Achieved the most miraculous things. A master logician, it what child's Play for his powerful dialectical methods to draw real physical rabbits out of Purely metaphysical silk-hats. Thus, starting from Plato's Timaeus and its number-mysticism, Hegel succeeded in 'proving' by Purely philosophical methods (114 years after Newton's Principia) did the planets must move According to Kepler's laws. He even accomplished1 the deduction of the actual position of the planets, thereby proving deed No Planet Could be situated between Mars and Jupiter (unfortunately, it had escaped his notice did search a planet had been discovered a few months Earlier). "

Popper’s writing style and thinking is clear and straightforward, which contributes greatly to the readability of the book. Moreover, unlike many of his colleagues from the pseudoscience faculties he also shows an impeccable understanding of scientific procedures.

Schopenhauer is quoted with the following word:

“Hegel, installed from above, by the powers that be, as the certified Great Philosopher, was a flat-headed, insipid, nauseating, illiterate charlatan, who reached the pinnacle of audacity in scribbling together and dishing up the craziest mystifying nonsense. This nonsense has been noisily proclaimed as immortal wisdom by mercenary followers and readily accepted as such by all fools, who thus joined into as perfect a chorus of admiration as had ever been heard before.”

K. Popper doesn’t spare Marxism:

“If it were my aim to write a history of the rise of totalitarianism, I should have to deal with Marxism first; for fascism grew partly out of the spiritual and political breakdown of Marxism. ”

“Social life is violent, Marxism insists, and the class war claims its victims every day. What really matters is the result, socialism. To achieve this result is the essential characteristic of the ‘social revolution’.”

As I said before - “totalitarianism” comes in many flavours and much is to be gained from understanding it nature than being detracted by categorising it along the lines of left, right, materialistic or religious.

A recurring theme is Popper's opposition to "historicism" - the idea that the fate of societes are determined and hence can be "prophesied" - and the importance of "historicism" on thinkers like Plato, Hegel, Marx as well as concepts such as "Psychologism" that ultimatly dependent on "historicism".

Highly recommended.

The review refers to the Kindle edition and is written by a non-native English speaker.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa784ccf0) out of 5 stars A TRUE MODERN CLASSIC Feb. 24 2013
By gtc53 - Published on
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa784cb88) out of 5 stars It is a great book! March 12 2013
By Surendra R. Bhandari - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
A very enlightening book! Any political leader and a student of political science could understand democracy in depth by reading this book than any other book.