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The Open Society and Its Enemies

(The Open Society and its Enemies #1+2)

4.20  ·  Rating details ·  1,234 ratings  ·  101 reviews
Written in political exile in New Zealand during the Second World War and published in two volumes in 1945, The Open Society and its Enemies was hailed by Bertrand Russell as a 'vigorous and profound defence of democracy'. This legendary attack on the philosophies of Plato, Hegel and Marx prophesied the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe and exposed the fatal flaws of ...more
Hardcover, 920 pages
Published May 24th 2002 by Routledge (first published 1956)
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The preface to this talked about Popper’s relationship with Hayek, so much so that since I’d only just finished ‘The Road to Serfdom’ I really wasn’t sure I could bring myself to read yet another defence of capitalist realism. This book ended up being much less such a defence than Hayek’s book did – but that said, what I found disturbing about this book reminds me of what I found most disturbing about Hayek’s – that is, the total rejection of everyone that might disagree with the author. You kno ...more
Peter (Pete) Mcloughlin
Popper is a major influence on my scientific and political outlook. He is an antidote to the hypnotic siren of utopian ideologies. His defense against illiberal ideologies should be required reading for all High School and College students. His key ideas are the distinction between laws of nature and normative conventions, His idea that a liberal society must not try to clear the decks and start from scratch. He calls this Utopian Social Engineering, Popper early in his life was friendly to soci ...more
E. G.
Preface: 'Karl Popper's The Open Society and Its Enemies in the Contemporary Global World', by Václav Havel
'Personal Recollections of the Publication of The Open Society', by E. H. Gombrich
Preface to the First Edition
Preface to the Second Edition

--The Open Society and Its Enemies

Notes to Volume I
Notes to Volume II
Ryan Boissonneault
Mar 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
The main question driving this two-volume masterpiece of political philosophy is this: What are the intellectual origins of totalitarianism and how can we combat them with better principles?

This takes Popper all the way back to ancient Greece, where he makes the strong (read: indisputable) case that the intellectual origin of totalitarianism starts with Plato (the subject of the first volume). While Popper admired many aspects of Plato’s works, he recognized in his political philosophy the firs
Jan 16, 2018 rated it did not like it
Academic bullshit! Completely detached from historical facts. Facts as much more important than opinions.
Gary  Beauregard Bottomley
Jun 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is an incredibly great book for four different reasons: Popper explains Plato, Aristotle, Hegel and Marx distinctly; historicism is demolished; the Popperian nature of science is expounded; and the madness of today is understood through his 1938 – 1945 interpretation of the past both as he presents his historical interpretations and as a meta-history (a history about a history) through how we today see what he saw because we see the world from our perspective of today as he saw his world th ...more
Jim Neeley
Jan 11, 2012 rated it really liked it

That was a book I did not think I was going to get through. Some parts I just really comprehended easily, some I had to go back and reread. I'm sure part of the reason is my complete lack of knowledge, beyond pop culture snippets, of that historical era. But I do have this to say, that I agree with Poppers criticism of power,authority, totalitarianism, and his view of an open society.

What I think this book did for me, was made me look at my critical thinking better and reasoning ability.Use
May 22, 2019 rated it did not like it
This is one of those books that have inspired many generations of bad readings of Plato, Hegel, and Heraclitus. Popper clearly becomes victim of his own critique. The history of philosophy in the west is forced to support his thesis. I would even go so far as to call his presentation irresponsible.
Nov 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, philosophy
Come for the defense of the open society, stay for the sick Hegel burns.

Popper's work is concerned with the defense of the open society - liberal democracy as a political system, with policies underpinned by piecemeal social engineering with humanitarian aims - against its enemies - totalitarians of various stripes.

The first volume deals largely with Plato, whom Popper regards as a genius who lost his moral way, abandoning and then reversing the humanitarianism of his mentor, Socrates, and his g
Mar 05, 2017 rated it did not like it
An excellent book on the "inner workings" of ultra-liberalism. Don't take this stuff seriously. Read it as a warning.
Jul 29, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy
Popper mounts many-faceted defence of liberal democracy and its underpinnings against what he sees as attacks on it by Plato/Aristotle (essentialist, authoritarian) and Marx/Engels (historicist). These great tidy, totalising theories of society stand against the messy muddling through of democracy.

I was largely in agreement with Popper through much of the text. I'm sure I would re-read more critically now (I am an anarchist), but remain grateful to it for furnishing me with criticisms of essenti
Jul 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: political, philosophy
This set of two books is a philosophical treat. Although I haven't read a lot of philosophy, this book, I believe, is good guidance for me. In it, the author critiques three philosophers, Plato, Hegel and Marx. He shows how each one failed to live up to democratic values.

Socrates, for instance, held an open inquiry method that was well-crafted for the democratic society that had risen up in ancient Greece in the time in which he lived. But Plato who was responsible for writing down Socrates' arg
Ehsan falah
Dec 05, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Sir Karl Raimund Popper is counted among the most influential philosophers of science of the 20th century, and also wrote extensively on social and political philosophy. In The "Open Society and Its Enemies", Popper developed a critique of historicism and a defence of the 'Open Society' and liberal democracy. He was the famous and powerfull enemy for authoritarianism and totalitarianism.
سر كارل ريموند پوپر در شمار فلاسفه مهم و پرقدرت فلسفه علم و فلسفه سياسي قرن بيستم است. عمده بحث وي در كتاب "
The Laughing Man
Mar 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Seriously one of the heaviest books I have read, it's decoding the entire mindset behind totalitarian / regressive ideologies especially the poisonous Marxism, if you really want to put communists down leaving them no point of defense for their arguments you need to arm yourself with this book. Popper has taken down Marx with style. And if you have even a modicum or respect for Plato or Hegel, get ready to lose it... This book will force you to grow.
Thore Husfeldt
Jun 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Absolutely fantastic. A monumental, meticulously argued, and sometimes vigorous defence of liberal democracy based on an original, nontrivial, insightful, surprising, and very convincing description of the tribal and authoritarian aspects that make up the perennial attack on the open society sometimes known as totalitarianism. Written with admirable clarity, this book feels to me as valuable today as ever.

I should have read this decades ago.
Jun 09, 2016 rated it liked it

Given the reputation of the book and indeed the theme, I was disappointed.

I was expecting an attack on idealism, on its possible dangers with magnates of irresponsibility.
What I got was an idealized defence of the autonomous "individual" rather than a case that would give understanding, belief and realization of an "open society".

The other disappointing feature was a lack to understanding of the two Big Hitters which Popper fires against in the second volume: Hegel and Marx. This charge is parti
Gregg Wingo
Jul 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Karl Popper’s “The Open Society and Its Enemies” is one of the greatest defenses of liberal democracy ever written. Like some medieval monk, he toiled away in virtual isolation in New Zealand during the depths of World War II, an exile and Jewish refugee from his native Austria. The forces of fascism drove Popper into seeking academic exile at Canterbury College in Christchurch, although he had options in England, he did this to allow others of lesser means to seek the closer asylum. This did no ...more
Kunal Sen
Jul 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Once in while you come across a writer whose ability to argue a point is so intelligent, so clear, and so sharp that you have to become extra cautious because you are afraid that you can be convinced of anything.

The first part of this book tries to prove that Plato’s political views were dangerously totalitarian, supporting eugenics, slavery, casteism, and racist. That made me rather cautious, because I could not reconcile Plato’s philosophical depth with these political views. However, Popper b
Ben Cullimore
Written and published towards the end of the Second World War, The Open Society and its Enemies represents a passionate defence of freedom and reason, two ideals that, Karl Popper believed, were under threat by the twin ideologies of fascism and communism. Popper presents a largely convincing argument against teleological historicism, identifying Plato, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel and Karl Marx as the main culprits for the dangerous role that such a belief played in the political philosophies ...more
Kozo Abe
Some time ago a wise old man came to see me in Prague and I listened to him with admiration. Shortly afterwards I heard that this man had died. His name was Karl Popper.

One of the targets of Popper’s profound criticism –which he supported by ample evidence –was a phenomenon he called holistic social engineering. He used this term to describe human attempts to change the world for the better completely and globally, on the basis of some preconceived ideology that purported to understand all the l
Mairi Byatt
Nov 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Stunning, no longer feel alone!
Lukas op de Beke
Sep 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book is written with all the brazenness and love of intellectual conflict that is typically associated with the philosopher Karl Popper. Though mainly known as a philosopher of science and in particular for having expounded the notion of falsification and the doctrine of critical rationalism, Popper proves that he is also a political philosopher of the first rank. with this beautifully written and very knowledgeable, devastating critique of Plato's political philosophy.

Admittedly, Popper do
Alexander Efremov
Mar 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I read it in Russian. Translation is really good: there is a special chapter written by translators on how they did their job. They met Popper to find out if their understanding is correct, they performed a great job on making references to Russian translations of books and articles which Popper refered to (if they exist). So that's one special side of the book to me.

Another one - I'm happy that I read it because of two things. First of all, I had lots of not-that-well connected ideas and though
Phil Scovis
Sep 30, 2016 rated it it was ok
An important milestone in political philosophy, with applications to science and economics. But a very dry read.

The author clearly doesn't like Plato much, or the worshipful commentary Plato has accumulated in the past two millennia. Plato's ideal society is an authoritarian, theocratic hell, and the aspiration to achieve it has stunted human progress.

"The Beginning of Infinity" by David Deutsch brings home many of the same points more effectively, with many allusions to Popper's celebrated wor
Eric Munn
Dec 01, 2017 rated it it was ok
I definitely found some great thoughts / insights in this tome of a book, but overall it felt very repetitive. It became clear after the first 300 some pages that there Popper has problems (well thought out and accurate problems) with, as he calls it, historicist thinking. The belief there's an ideal version of government that we're trying to achieve from the past can lead to some very bad policies. And all of this could be told in a third of what it currently is. I'm guessing this was more Popp ...more
Nolan Gray
Jul 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Political philosophy required reading.
Arno Mosikyan
May 13, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy

It springs rather from my conviction that, if our civilization is to survive, we must break with the habit of deference to great men.

Great men may make great mistakes; and as the book tries to show, some of the greatest leaders of the past supported the pere... Their influence, too rarely challenged, continues to mislead those on whose defence civilization ...

Marxism is only an episode—one of the many mistakes we have made in the perennial and dangerous struggle for building a better and f
Jozef Borja-Erece
Aug 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
“Instead of posing as prophets, we must become the makers of our fate. We must learn to do things as well as we can, and to look out for our mistakes. And when we have dropped the idea that the history of power will be our judge, when we have given up worrying whether or not history will justify us, then one day perhaps we may succeed in getting our power under control.

In this way we may even justify history, in our turn. It badly needs a justification.”

The Democratic Spirit

If one tasked with r
Roberto Rigolin F Lopes
We are in 1956, Popper is defending that civilization must criticize authority to keep itself open to changes. An open and ever-changing society has much more chance to thrive over the centuries. Because even great thinkers may make great mistakes. What a rebel! I was hooked but didn’t imagine that Plato was first. Popper fiercely attacks “The Republic ” and “The Laws” showing that Plato’s ideas would ultimately create a closed society averse to any type of change. This is particularly shocking ...more
Jeff Cliff
Mar 30, 2017 rated it liked it
The rationalists of the 19th century clearly saw themselves emersed in a battle between rationalism and religion, organized or non. The 20th century as of Popper did not yet see themselves as in the battle with an irrationalist foe in marxism and hegelianism(and others that would later use their rhetoric, like sunni and shia islam). Popper sought to rectify this and clarify the matter, and this is the result.

"The Open Society" is one of those books that once you read it, you can't unread it. The
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Sir Karl Raimund Popper, FRS, rose from a modest background as an assistant cabinet maker and school teacher to become one of the most influential theorists and leading philosophers. Popper commanded international audiences and conversation with him was an intellectual adventure—even if a little rough—animated by a myriad of philosophical problems. He contributed to a field of thought encompassing ...more

Other books in the series

The Open Society and its Enemies (4 books)
  • The Open Society and Its Enemies - Volume One: The Spell of Plato
  • The Open Society and Its Enemies - Volume Two: Hegel and Marx
  • After the Open Society: Selected Social and Political Writings

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22 likes · 5 comments
“The so-called paradox of freedom is the argument that freedom in the sense of absence of any constraining control must lead to very great restraint, since it makes the bully free to enslave the meek. The idea is, in a slightly different form, and with very different tendency, clearly expressed in Plato.

Less well known is the paradox of tolerance: Unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance. If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them. — In this formulation, I do not imply, for instance, that we should always suppress the utterance of intolerant philosophies; as long as we can counter them by rational argument and keep them in check by public opinion, suppression would certainly be unwise. But we should claim the right to suppress them if necessary even by force; for it may easily turn out that they are not prepared to meet us on the level of rational argument, but begin by denouncing all argument; they may forbid their followers to listen to rational argument, because it is deceptive, and teach them to answer arguments by the use of their fists or pistols. We should therefore claim, in the name of tolerance, the right not to tolerate the intolerant. We should claim that any movement preaching intolerance places itself outside the law, and we should consider incitement to intolerance and persecution as criminal, in the same way as we should consider incitement to murder, or to kidnapping, or to the revival of the slave trade, as criminal.”
“We must plan for freedom, and not only for security, if for no other reason than only freedom can make security more secure.” 29 likes
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