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Open Society: Reforming Global Capitalism Hardcover – November 7, 2000

3.4 out of 5 stars 31 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

George Soros is chairman of Soros Fund Management and is the founder of a global network of foundations dedicated to supporting open societies. He is the author of several bestselling books including The Crash of 2008: The New Paradigm for Financial Markets; The Crisis of Global Capitalism; The Bubble of American Supremacy; Underwriting Democracy; and The Age of Fallibility. He was born in Budapest and lives in New York City.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: PublicAffairs; 1st edition (January 1, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1586480197
  • ISBN-13: 978-1586480196
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.9 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #587,948 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

George Soros was born in Budapest, Hungary on August 12, 1930. He survived the occupation of Budapest and left communist Hungary in 1947 for England, where he graduated from the London School of Economics. While a student at LSE, Mr. Soros became familiar with the work of the philosopher Karl Popper, who had a profound influence on his thinking and later on his professional and philanthropic activities. The financier. In 1956 Mr. Soros moved to the United States, where he began to accumulate a large fortune through an international investment fund he founded and managed. Today he is Chairman of Soros Fund Management LLC.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
The book consists of roughly two parts. The first is the philosophical foundation of the "theory of reflexivity", with application to financial markets and historical process in general, resulting in the "Open Society" concept. The second is the assessment of the present moment of history and the author's vision of the future of the global financial and political architecture.
The "reflexivity theory", already developed by George Soros in his earlier books (e.g. "The Alchemy of Finance") can be summed up in his own words: "We are part of the world we seek to understand, and our imperfect understanding plays an important role in shaping the events in which we participate." This entails recognition of the fundamental limitations of the social science and our own understanding of society. "It (reflexivity) creates a cleavage between the natural and social sciences and it undermines the postulate on which economic theory has been based: rational behavior in general and rational expectations in particular."
This is a powerful statement indeed. It immediately follows that the future of humankind is not only unknown, or too difficult to predict, but unknowable, because self-awareness and attempts at prediction influence events and change the course of history. This line of reasoning has more immediate application in the financial markets. The widely accepted "efficient market theory" postulates that market participants absorb all available information in an objective and efficient manner, and new information is random and unpredictable relative to previous expectations. If any statistically significant pattern appears in the market data, it should be exploited by many players and will soon disappear. This seems to be similar to the conclusions of the "reflexivity theory".
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Format: Hardcover
Here are two reasons to read this book --

1) Learn why George Soros, one of the world's wealthiest men, a billionaire financial speculator, says that dogmatic belief in the so-called "free market" is every bit as dangerous as a comparably dogmatic belief in Marxism-Leninism (a topic Soros knows something about, given that he grew up under a Marxist-Leninist government in Hungary).

2) Learn about the philosopher Karl Popper, a beacon of rationality in a tribalistic world. Soros is an intellectual follower of Popper, author of the renowned THE OPEN SOCIETY AND ITS ENEMIES (see my review), and Soros attempts to apply Popper's thinking to the current crisis of global capitalism. Whether he draws the correct conclusion in every case is less the point than the serious thinking involved. Popper is widely misunderstood to be an advocate of the free market. What he is actually in favor of is freedom of thought -- skepticism of any received dogma, including the dogma of the Free Market, to which many now say There Is No Alternative.

Rubbish, says Popper, and so says Soros. A legal, regulatory framework is required. Without the appropriate regulation, the result is the "gangster capitalism" of Russia, and of Enron. Along with Nobel Prize-winning economists Amartya Sen and Joseph Stiglitz among others, Soros is absolutely right in his basic point, and is making a contribution to the construction of an appropriate institutional architecture for an increasingly global society.
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Format: Hardcover
I think George Soros and Robert Kaplan, as well as others that are starting to realize that the opposite of virtue is not vice but rather virtue carried to an extreme (Jim Fox said it first, at least in this era), are on to something.
Although economists of great traditional standing (Robert Samuelson comes to mind) have been very quick to denigrate, even trash, the ideas of George Soros, my personal reaction, and my own reading of 225 or so books that I have reviewed for Amazon, suggests that he is right on target. Unfettered capitalism and corporate consumerism is killing us, and is part of the problem between Western secularism and Islamic fundamentalism--we don't have a model for sustainable faith-based prosperity they can buy into (I am mindful of Bernard Lewis's What Went Wrong thesis).
Most recently, in The Washington Post of 24 February 2002, George Soros is quoted as saying, "We can't be successful in fighting terrorism unless we fight that other axis of evil--poverty, disease and ignorance." Right on. Both The Future of Life and The Future of Ideas (see my reviews of those titles), and many other books now coming together in a critical mass, support basic propositions about the failure of politics, the erosion of moral contexts, and the dangers of capitalism upon public health, the environment, and the social fabric.
I would normally have rated this book with 4 stars for its lack of reference to others, but in light of the importance of the argument that George Soros makes, and the value of his own unique experiences bridging the worlds of poverty and wealth, American and Eastern European challenges and biases, I have to give this a 5--and wait to see our academic economists do better.
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Format: Hardcover
George Soros has written an interesting and thought-provoking book with a goal that could hardly be any more ambitious. Open Society is a vision for a new economic and political architecture for the world.

The book starts out by presenting a 'Conceptual Framework' that serves to outline the basic principles, such as fallibility and reflexivity, upon which Mr. Soros analyses the present and builds a vision for the future. In many ways, this is the best written, most original and most coherent and convincing part of the book. This is achieved by a fair amount of repetition but also good logic and evidence of the author having thought about the ideas for a long time and researched them thoroughly. Mr. Soros is undoubtedly an intelligent and well-read man.

The second part of the book deals with the present moment in history and can actually itself be divided into two parts. It begins by analyzing the global capitalist system, and then discusses the Asian crisis and the events that have taken place in Russia and eastern Europe after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The first two of these are very interesting and give good introduction to the global financial system. The section on Russia is not as engaging and one might suspect that Mr. Soros' personal feelings perhaps interfere a bit with his analysis.

Part two of the book concludes with the author's suggestions for a new global economic and political architecture. There certainly are nuggets of great wisdom and even brilliance here but the writing is hopelessly unconvincing compared to the first part of the book and at times quite frustrating. Mr. Soros draws up inadequate straw men representing his main opponents 'market fundamentalists' and 'geopolitical realists' and then in due course attempts to cut them down.
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