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The Open Society and Its Enemies (Routledge Classics)
The Open Society and Its Enemies (Routledge Classics)
by Karl Popper
Edition: Paperback
Price: 17.99

25 of 47 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The Michael Flately Experience, 26 Oct 2011
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. Hegel is never mentioned in Mein Kampf and I wouldn't be surprised to learn that Popper had never read a single piece of his work in its entirety. It is possibly the most overblown and criminal misrepresentation of one philosopher by another ever put to paper. I suggest Peter Singer or David James as more even-handed commentators if you're looking for an introduction to the great German. The final section of the book is a criticism of Stalinism masquerading as a criticism Marxism, as such there's little to disagree with except his attribution of these views to Marx. I suggest simply reading Marx himself to appreciate the huge over-emphasis Popper places on his comments on 'historicism'. Though its importance in 20th century political philosophy cannot be denied, this work has dated badly because its biased view is now so out of context. This is not to say that Nazism and Stalinism did not warrant such a polemic, of course, but hell will surely freeze over before I buy into the explanation that Plato was responsible for them.
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