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The Open Society and Its Enemies, Vol. 2: Hegel, Marx, and the Aftermath [Paperback]

Karl R. Popper
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)

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Book Description

February 1, 1971 069101972X 978-0691019727 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. 2: Hegel, Marx, and the Aftermath + The Open Society and Its Enemies, Vol. 1: The Spell of Plato + The Logic of Scientific Discovery (Routledge Classics)
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Editorial Reviews


'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 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: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press; 5 Revised edition (February 1, 1971)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 069101972X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691019727
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 5.5 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #129,136 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of my favorites! December 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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53 of 65 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great liberal, no friend to dogmatic libertarians January 29, 2002
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 "conservatives" to advance ideas that Popper rejected. What Popper means by "The Open Society" is a society based on reflection and deliberation, not one based on "laws of supply and demand."

THE OPEN SOCIETY AND ITS ENEMIES is one of those books much more often cited than actually read, and upon examination there is much here that is quite surprising. For instance, though Popper is mainly critical of Marx, who he calls a "false prophet," he also says "[o]ne cannot do justice to Marx without recognizing his sincerity. His open-mindedness, his sense of facts, his distrust of verbiage, and especially of moralizing verbiage, made him one of the world's most influential fighters against hypocrisy and pharisaism." (82) He also notes " justified [Marx] was in his glowing protest against the hell of an unrestrained capitalism..." (185) And Popper devotes an entire chapter to *agreeing* with Marx's anti-psychologism, his sociological insight that "social existence determines consciousness." (Chapter 14, "The Autonomy of Sociology")

It is precisely in reference to the way in which Marx's prophesy of capitalism's demise failed to come true that Popper distinguishes himself as a flexible liberal and not a dogmatic libertarian. Because, he says, "[u]nrestrained capitalism is gone. Since the day of Marx, democratic interventionism has made immense advances..." (187) The living standards of the working majority were raised through democratic social reforms which included the 8-hour day, recognition of trade unions, women's suffrage, and much more.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Popper's "war work" still speaks to us June 23, 2000
Karl Popper's two-volume tracing of the philosophical ancestry of 20th Century totalitarianism remains for me a marvelous work. As I spent several graduate school years in the company self-styled neo-Marxists and Maoist wannabees, Popper's courteous but radical (in the sense of getting at the roots) criticism of Marxist thought was my candle in the darkness. Now that my daughter reads Plato at St. John's College, I look forward to discussing Popper's ideas once again!
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Comment on review of 16 sept. 2003 August 1, 2004
By A. Lang
As a total fan of Popper (the book is a must read), I can't stand by and let criticism on Popper pass by, without trying to falsify this criticism. So here's my comments on the review of September 16 (while at the same time touching some - of the many - subjects that the book treats).

The review criticises Popper for calling Plato's philosophy totalitarian. The reviewer argues that:
1. the word totalitarian didn't exist in Plato's age, ergo Plato's philosophy couldn't be totalitarian.
2. that totalitarianism is a word especially constructed for the mind control practised by modern dictatorships, and that the ancient dictatorships couldn't practice this kind of dictatorship because they lacked the technical abilities.
3. that totalitarian leaders aren't bothered by what Plato writes, and thus that Plato's philosophy can't be responsible for totalitarianism.

ad 1. Clearly dogs existed before the word `dog' existed, atoms existed before the word `atom' existed and totalitarianism could have existed, before the word `totalitarianism' existed.
ad 2. While the word `totalitarianism' might have been created for the mind police exercised by the Soviet Russia and Nazi Germany, the word can also be used to make a distinction between ancient dictatorships. It would indeed be wrong to call the dictatorship practised by the ancient Egyptian pharaoh's - that condoned the existence of the Jewish religion - as totalitarian. However the point Popper is making, is that Plato's philosophy didn't condone different views. Plato basically said that the wisest should lead and that none shall question him.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A great read.
In this volume, Popper argues against what he calls the prophesies of historicism, and in particular the historicist prophesies of Marx. Read more
Published on July 13, 2010 by Ideophile
5.0 out of 5 stars A famous book
This is a well known classic written more than 60 years ago that even our commonplace and leftist noise dominated cultural environment could not silence, therefore it needs no... Read more
Published on June 4, 2009 by Efraim Israel
4.0 out of 5 stars I'm perplexed
Popper rakes Plato over the coals and dismisses Hegel as a charlatan. Then he treats Marx with kid gloves. What gives? Read more
Published on December 15, 2008 by Individual Investor
4.0 out of 5 stars Worth it for the discussion of Marxism
Popper's criticism of Marxist thought is the real payoff of the two volumes of this work. He writes with a passion that is at times overwrought - especially when teeing off... Read more
Published on October 9, 2007 by Carl of Mariemont
5.0 out of 5 stars Philosophy of History: Prove untruth, not truth
To Popper, science is a process of "conjectures and refutations"-- advancing bold conjectures about the state of the world and then trying to refute them. Read more
Published on May 4, 2007 by J. Gresham
5.0 out of 5 stars actually quite pro-Marxist
Many of these reviews of the second volume have completely misunderstood. Popper hated Soviet communism. Read more
Published on September 12, 2004 by A. Ryder
5.0 out of 5 stars As timely today as it was when written
Popper attempts - and largely succeeds - in puncturing the myth that authoritarian societies are in any way superior to Open Societies. Read more
Published on May 21, 2004 by Avid Reader
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 September 16, 2003
5.0 out of 5 stars A great and thoughtful read.
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... Read more
Published on January 23, 2003 by entropier
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 November 28, 2002
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