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The Open Society and Its Enemies

From Academic Kids

The Open Society and Its Enemies is an influential two-volume work by Karl Popper, written during the second world war. Failing to find a publisher in the United States, it was first printed in London, in 1945.

In The Open Society and Its Enemies, Popper developed a critique of historicism and a defence of the open society, liberal democracy. The book comes in 2 volumes, volume 1 subtitled "The Spell of Plato (http://lachlan.bluehaze.com.au/books/popper_open_society_vol1.html)", and volume 2 "The High Tide of Prophecy: Hegel, Marx, and the Aftermath (http://lachlan.bluehaze.com.au/books/popper_open_society.html)".

The subtitle of the first volume is also its central premise—namely, that most Plato interpreters through the ages have been seduced by his greatness. In so doing, Popper argues, they have taken his political philosophy as a benign idyll, rather than as it should be seen: an horrific totalitarian nightmare of deceit, violence, master-race rhetoric, and eugenics.

Contrary to major Plato scholars of his day, Popper divorced Plato's ideas from those of Socrates, claiming that the former in his later years expressed none of the humanitarian and democratic tendencies of his teacher. In particular, he accuses Plato of betraying Socrates in the Republic, wherein he portrays Socrates sympathizing with totalitarianism. (See also: Socratic problem.)

Popper extols Plato's analysis of social change and discontent, yet rejects his solutions. This is dependent on Popper's reading of the emerging humanitarian ideals of Athenian democracy as the birth pangs of his coveted "open society." On this view, Plato's historicist ideas are driven by a fear of the change that comes with such a liberal worldview. Popper also suggests that Plato was the victim of his own vanity—that he had designs to become the supreme Philosopher King of his vision.

In volume 2, Popper moves on to criticise Hegel and Marx, tracing back their ideas to Aristotle.

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