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The Open Society and Its Enemies (Routledge Classics) [Paperback]

Karl Popper
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
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Book Description

4 April 2011 Routledge Classics

 ‘If in this book harsh words are spoken about some of the greatest among the intellectual leaders of mankind, my motive is not, I hope, to belittle them. It springs rather from my conviction that, if our civilization is to survive, we must break with the habit of deference to great men.’

- Karl Popper, from the Preface

Written in political exile during the Second World War and first published in two volumes in 1945, Karl Popper’s The Open Society and Its Enemies is one of the most influential books of all time. Hailed by Bertrand Russell as a ‘vigorous and profound defence of democracy’, its now legendary attack on the philosophies of Plato, Hegel and Marx exposed the dangers inherent in centrally planned political systems and through underground editions become an inspiration to lovers of freedom living under communism in Eastern Europe.

Popper’s highly accessible style, his erudite and lucid explanations of the thoughts of great philosophers and the recent resurgence of totalitarian regimes around the world are just three of the reasons for the enduring popularity of The Open Society and Its Enemies and why it demands to be read today and in years to come.


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The Open Society and Its Enemies (Routledge Classics) + The Logic of Scientific Discovery (Routledge Classics) + Conjectures and Refutations: The Growth of Scientific Knowledge (Routledge Classics)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 800 pages
  • Publisher: Routledge (4 April 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0415610214
  • ISBN-13: 978-0415610216
  • Product Dimensions: 23.4 x 15.6 x 4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 63,587 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description

Review

'Some time ago a wise old man came to see me in Prague and I listened to him with admiration. Shortly afterwards I learned that this man had died. His name was Karl Popper'. - Vaclav Havel, from the Preface '!a work of first-class importance which ought to be widely read for its masterly criticism of the enemies of democracy, ancient and modern. ..The book is a vigorous and profound defence of democracy, timely, very interesting, and very well written.' - Bertrand Russell 'One of the great books of the century' - The Times '!a modern classic' The Independent 'Few philosophers!have combined such a vast width of knowledge with the capacity to produce important original ideas as he did.' - The Guardian '!a powerful and important book. Dr Popper writes with extreme clarity and vigour. His studies in Greek history and Greek thought have obviously been profound and original. Platonic exegesis will never be the same again. Nor, I think, will Marxist exegesis.' - Gilbert Ryle '! a brilliant polemic. ..It remains the best intellectual defence of liberal democracy against know-it-all totalitarianism.' - The Economist

About the Author

Sir Karl Popper was one of the foremost philosophers of the Twentieth century. Born in Vienna in 1902, Popper grew up in a city witnessing great intellectual ferment. His relationship with the philosophers and scientists led to his first book, The Logic of Scientific Discovery, published in 1934. On its publication in English in 1959 it was described by The New Scientist as ‘one of the most important documents of the twentieth century’. On the eve of World War Two Popper was forced to flee to New Zealand, where he took up a teaching post at Canterbury University College at Christchurch. It was there, reflecting on the tyranny sweeping through Eastern Europe, that he wrote The Open Society and Its Enemies, published in 1945. In 1946 Popper moved to the London School of Economics, where he taught until his retirement in 1969. This period saw the publication of The Poverty of Historicism, described by the Sunday Times as ‘probably the only book which will outlive this century’. He was knighted in 1965 and appointed Companion of Honour in 1982. He died in 1994.


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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great and influential work 10 Dec 2012
By Colin W
Format:Paperback
This book has been an inspiration to many, especially those who contributed to the overthrow of the totalitarian communist bloc in Eastern Europe established after the second world war. Popper contrasts 'open societies' based on democracy, where people are free and allowed to express criticism, with 'closed (or tribal) societies' which have rigid codes of ethics and politics, and ruling elites which are impossible to change without violence. With the growth of religious fundamentalist attitudes and forms of governments which is occurring today around the world, Popper's critique is as valuable now as it was when he wrote this book during the second world war. There are many countries where democracy is non-existent and a ruling elite brutally imposes a single uncriticisable government on its citizens. Popper correctly shows that these governments fear free thought and long for the tribal certainties which they do not want questioned.
Volume 1 is devoted to Plato. Popper translated Plato himself to avoid the usual translation euphemisms made by those unwilling to criticise Plato. In volume 2, Popper's view of Hegel as a charlatan is in line with the views of Schopenhauer. Popper exposes a passage of Hegel's supposed scientific writings as empty nonsense.
Most of volume 2 is devoted to Marx, a thinker who Popper admires but thinks is mistaken in his historicist prophesying analysis of history.
The phrase 'open society' has become a touchstone for those who value freedom and democracy.
A great book which should be widely known.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Karl Popper and The Open Society 9 Mar 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The book "The Open Society and Its Enemies" appeared as a philosophical and methodological development of Karl Popper's work: "The Poverty of Historicism", all written in political exile in New Zealand during the Second World War . This was his war effort (1rst Published in 1945), as well as "The Road to Serfdom" (1944) of his friend Hayek.
Popper (1902-1994), wanted to study the roots of historicism and of totalitarianism in philosophy, social sciences and politics. Upon his own methodology, he delivered his attacks on the philosophies of Plato, Hegel and Marx, the fathers of the ancient (tribalism) and the modern vision (nazism and stalinism) of the closed society; states without democracy and freedom for the individuals. He applied his research concerning the method or the logic of scientific discovery to the study of the societies. It is the same methodology of trial and error, of problem solving, with testability and falsifiability, in the natural sciences and in the social sciences. Hence his methodological individualism (Cf. also Hayek) to study the society, with its institutions as an evolutionary process, and the "piecemeal social engineering" for the policy measures. So he grasped all the conditions: in theory, economics and politics, to preserve the "open society", liberty and democracy.
In the XXth Century Popper and Hayek were the great philosophers of the liberal democracy.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic relevant book 11 Feb 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Absolute classic ! Read this many years ago and it's still as relevant today, when we still have politicians, that for all their fine words, still make topdown decisions.
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26 of 48 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The Michael Flately Experience 26 Oct 2011
Format:Paperback
I'll start with the positive aspects. For a philosopher, and one for whom English was a second language, Popper writes with great clarity and an engaging tone which makes this an easy read. During my tenure as a philosophy student I also found this book incredibly useful, because if there's one thing better than a well-written, inspirational work when studying the subject, it's a well-written work of extreme and untenable interpretations. The scope for criticism is huge, so I recommend reading it for academic purposes especially.

Given the context of writing during the Second World War, Popper's methods in the defence of liberalism are absolutely understandable. However, as a supposedly unbiased academic they are unforgivable. Like many others, he fails to appreciate the nuances of the Greek city-state system and the idea of the polis in the Republic, instead assuming that Plato can be taken at face value and translated directly into modern political terminology in a way that conveniently serves his purpose. The city-in-speech which Popper criticises, for example, was never intended to be a political guide for 'totalitarianism', it is abstracted from the unreasoned desires of eros, not from reason itself - I recommend the section on Plato in Leo Strauss' 'History of Political Philosophy' for a good explanation.

On Hegel, I can only assume that Popper knows how ridiculous his analysis is, as he clearly doesn't take the philosopher's work seriously at all. I feel I need only point out that he not only misquotes Hegel but uses 'quotations' that have subsequently been shown to be entire fabrications (by the sources, not Popper himself) to make my point.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Still working my way through it... 5 Jan 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
but some really deep and well reasoned philosophical arguments, as you would expect. You can see very quickly why Popper has the reputation he has and quickly makes a fallacy of some commonly accepted 'truths'. Truly power to the the people, but not in the way Hegel, Marx et al would expect!
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