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The Open Society and Its Enemies, Vol. 1: The Spell of Plato [Paperback]

by Karl R. Popper
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)

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Book Description

February 1, 1971 0691019681 978-0691019680 5 Revised

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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The Open Society and Its Enemies, Vol. 1: The Spell of Plato + The Open Society and Its Enemies, Vol. 2: Hegel, Marx, and the Aftermath + The Logic of Scientific Discovery (Routledge Classics)
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Editorial Reviews

Review

'One of the great books of the century' - Alan Ryan, The Times

'Few philosophershave combined such a vast width of knowledge with the capacity to produce important original ideas as he did.' - Anthony Quinton, The Guardian

'This is a work of great interest and significance, stimulating and suggestive throughout. Dr Popper's 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 an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press; 5 Revised edition (February 1, 1971)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691019681
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691019680
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.5 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #106,644 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
137 of 149 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Common Sense, Rigorously Applied August 3, 2001
Format:Paperback
This is a paperback in two volumes: volume I subtitled "Plato", and volume II subtitled "Hegel and Marx". Each volume has a table of contents, text, addenda, truly awe-inspiring endnotes, an index of names, and of subjects. This is a review of BOTH volumes.
"If in this book harsh words are spoken about some of the greatest among the intellectual leaders of mankind, my motive is not...to belittle them. ...we must break with the habit of deference to great men. Great men may make great mistakes..." (from the intro to the 1943 edition)
Karl Popper was fighting the war in his own way. He saw what was essentially the same in Stalin and Hitler: a monstrous confidence. They may have drawn on different philosophies of the state, but it came to the same thing in the end: wholesale murder as a tool of social engineering.
But WWII is over, and we won. Moreover, the Soviet Union has collapsed, and we won again. So what is the fuss? Relax: Marxism is dead, Platonism sounds quaint, and who the hell is Hegel, anyway?
But don't rest easy just yet, free-market man! Every four years we seem to reaffirm our need for a philosopher-king. And while the historicist faith is now all tarted-up with computers, networking, and the Fable of the Bees and re-christened "emergent order", it still leaves us feeling smug and moral in doing nothing but tending our own gardens.
Popper is pithy throughout, but I only started noting things (this time around) at the penultimate chapter of the work, 24:
"... the fight against suffering must be considered a duty, while the right to care for the happiness of others must be considered a privilege confined to the close circle of their friends."(vII, p237)
[on language, and the aim of rationalism] "...
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88 of 95 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Greatest Book of the 20th Century? September 7, 2000
Format:Paperback
I think the title of this review is a true description of this book, but I urge you to judge for yourself. My only regret is that I did not read it many years ago when my head was turned by the siren calls of what Popper calls 'tribalism'. Even then I heard about it and had it pooh-poohed as 'old hat' by 'advanced' thinkers (self-styled!). Often misinterpreted as an attack on Plato, Marx and Hegel, it is in reality a stirring defense of democracy and liberalism, written at democracy's darkest hour. Now that Marxism has collapsed, Popper in an interview given before his death called for us now to look for the 'roads not taken', admitting that embattled western liberalism became, to a certain extent, an unquestioned dogma like its opponents. A good place to start that search is with Popper's greatest book.
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31 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Portrait of the Philosopher-King as an Artist August 21, 2006
Format:Paperback
When confronted with the rise of totalitarianism and the destruction of all that he held dear, Poper felt a single, overwhelming urge: to return to the Greeks, to the dawn of our civilization, so as to understand the root of the evil and to offer a practical way out of bestiality. His search was motivated by the insight that "this civilization has not yet fully recovered from the shock of its birth--the transition from the tribal or 'closed society', with its submission to magical forces, to the 'open society', which sets free the critical powers of man."

Heraclitus set the stage with his claim that "the cosmos, at best, is like a rubbish heap scattered at random." If "everything is in flux" and "you cannot step twice into the same river", then at least we can try to discover the historical or evolutionary laws which will enable us to prophesy the destiny of man.

Plato's claim to greatness is to have discovered such a law: that "all social change is corruption or decay or degeneration," and that the only way to break this cycle of decay is to arrest development and return to the Golden Age, where no change occurs. His belief in perfect and unchanging things, the Platonic Ideas from which all things originate, finds its expression in all fields of inquiry: be it social justice, nature and convention, wisdom and truth, or goodness and beauty.

Behind these lofty ideals, Popper uncovers a discomforting truth: Plato envisioned the ideal Greek polity as a totalitarian nightmare, where the 'race of the guardians' had to be kept pure from any miscegenation and where the role of the rulers was to breed the human cattle according to some esoteric formula (the 'Platonic Number', a number determining the True Period of the human race).
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enlightening! March 11, 2001
By Aaron
Format:Paperback
A timely critique of the vast umbrella of ideology which invisibly governs our society.
There are many teachers who we barely refute, such as Plato, who have had many great ideas, but also some bad ones; bad ideas which are rarely questioned due to the originator's prestige. However, "The Open Society And Its Enemies", does just that, and much more.
Humankind's tendency toward a more primitive society (totalitarianism) than that demanded by our awakening powers of criticism is, as Popper lucidly suggests, the result of historicist prejudice, which envisions a degenerative future. Popper sees such historicism as a self-fulfilling prophecy, and labors to convince the reader that we are actually in control of our destiny, that our course is as yet undetermined, and, more to the point, that it is not the proper place of science to predict the course of social change (Marx).
This book is refreshing, insightful, and brilliantly argued; a MUST HAVE addition to your personal library.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Concisely put polemic against the tendency towards totaltarianism
The Open Society and its Enemies, would be my political book of choice, Karl Popper laid out some of the seminal arguments against modern totalitarianism, albeit a bit too late for... Read more
Published on April 16, 2011 by Rarian
5.0 out of 5 stars Plato as the architect of the totalitarian state similar to that in...
Before reading Popper's book, Plato's republic seemed to me to be little more than an absurd fantasy. Read more
Published on March 6, 2011 by Ulfilas
5.0 out of 5 stars Most useful
The combination of wisdom, razor-sharp reason, common sense, and humanitarian point of view of mr. Popper astounded me. Read more
Published on January 27, 2011 by dissonance
5.0 out of 5 stars Now More than Ever
There are spots in many of The Great Books that make me want to slap the author around a little, but that's OK -- it shows I'm thinking. Read more
Published on October 17, 2010 by Daniel G. Schaeffer
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent
Thank you so much for the speedy delivery of this book - it was in excellent condition upon receipt.
Published on February 25, 2010 by J. Kang
5.0 out of 5 stars Karl Popper and the Cap and Trade Bill
I have just read volume one of Karl Popper's Open Society and Its Enemies and have been raving about it all over the Internet. Read more
Published on December 6, 2009 by Mitchell Langbert
4.0 out of 5 stars brilliant analysis
Karl Popper had two different views of the social science. The first view is the historicism view, which included the theory of Heraclitus and Platon. Read more
Published on December 30, 2008 by Bernd Kotz
5.0 out of 5 stars Plato Digest
To explain my point of view I want to make it clear that I'm not a scholar, much less a Greek scholar. Read more
Published on December 8, 2008 by Individual Investor
4.0 out of 5 stars Open Society and Its Enemies
Karl Popper's antagonistic personallity comes through loud and clear. He seems to blame Plato for having to leave Vienna due to Hitler. Read more
Published on July 15, 2008 by Margaret Hess
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the Great Works on Classical Liberalism
This book, written as a sustained critique of the social philosophy of Plato, is one of the best statements of classical liberalism I have encountered. Read more
Published on March 24, 2008 by James F. Mueller
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