The Open Society and Its Enemies - Volume Two: Hegel and Marx

The Open Society and Its Enemies - Volume Two: Hegel and Marx

Written in political exile in New Zealand during the World War II and first published in two volumes in 1945, Karl Poppers The Open Society and its Enemies was hailed by Bertrand Russell as a vigorous and profound defence of democracy. Its now legendary attack on the philosophies of Plato, Hegel and Marx prophesied the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe and exposed th...

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Title:The Open Society and Its Enemies - Volume Two: Hegel and Marx
Author:Karl Popper
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Edition Language:English

The Open Society and Its Enemies - Volume Two: Hegel and Marx Reviews

  • Dan

    I don't know what I would do without this book.

    Popper fled the Nazi takeover of Austria, and set out to write a book that would somehow fight bad ideologies. He succeeded. If only anyone actually read it.

    begins with an attack on Plato. Popper argues that we need to realize that Plato chose Sparta over Athens, and every other vaguely cosmopolitan city. He spends time describing just how controlled, misogynistic, and totalitarian Spartan life really was. Popper then moves on to show

    I don't know what I would do without this book.

    Popper fled the Nazi takeover of Austria, and set out to write a book that would somehow fight bad ideologies. He succeeded. If only anyone actually read it.

    begins with an attack on Plato. Popper argues that we need to realize that Plato chose Sparta over Athens, and every other vaguely cosmopolitan city. He spends time describing just how controlled, misogynistic, and totalitarian Spartan life really was. Popper then moves on to show Plato worshiping that lifestyle in

    Plato based his political theory on his belief in forms (perfect concepts outside of time of which all our ideas and creations are mere shadows), and so the political system which best resembled a form (unchanging) was the best system. This best system was a totalitarian city ruled by corrupt philosophers who taught lies. Popper links this belief of Plato

    The heart of

    is the criticism of any philosophy or theory of history that claims to know the future. Branding these philosophies ‘Historicism,’ he argues that Marxism by arguing that history moves in stages (feudal, capitalist, communist) makes itself unable to choose a better world. By accepting that history is an inevitable march of economic forms, socialists become unable to work in the now.

    Popper blames this aspect of Marxism for allowing fascism to rise in Europe. He believed that if Austrian socialists had been more willing (and less confident in History’s march) to ally with moderates they could have stop the rise of fascist and rightist parties.

    This is truly one of my favorite books, and there’s a good chance I’ll pick it up and write a proper review with citation and deep thoughts one of these days.

  • Mierrosamir

    - thinking in the solving problems need logics or an experience?

    - are we should trade one way?

    - are we all search for many answers at same time?

    - is there an answer without a question?

  • Gabriel Thy

    From

    to

    , the philosopher king is the summit of socialism everywhere, a system in which the "good" thinker knows what is best for all individuals.

    prefers the free society and counts neo-Platonism among his enemies.

    From

    to

    , the philosopher king is the summit of socialism everywhere, a system in which the "good" thinker knows what is best for all individuals.

    prefers the free society and counts neo-Platonism among his enemies.

  • Clif

    This is the second volume of Popper's work that warns of the great influence of thinkers who were no friends of the open society, a society in which the rights of the individual are valued over the glory of the state.

    In volume one, Popper uses Plato's writings, quoted extensively, to indict Plato very effectively as an advocate of totalitarianism. In this volume, it is Hegel and Marx that are up on charges of abandoning reason for historicism, Popper's term for a mythological belief that there i

    This is the second volume of Popper's work that warns of the great influence of thinkers who were no friends of the open society, a society in which the rights of the individual are valued over the glory of the state.

    In volume one, Popper uses Plato's writings, quoted extensively, to indict Plato very effectively as an advocate of totalitarianism. In this volume, it is Hegel and Marx that are up on charges of abandoning reason for historicism, Popper's term for a mythological belief that there is a force directing the course of societies that dictates their fate and, by extension, allows prophecy about what societies will come.

    Historicism defeats effort. Why should you and I do anything when the lessons of the past dictate an inevitable future, for better or worse? The future will be inevitably worse, part of the predictable degeneration from the original ideal thought Plato, a pessimist, while Hegel and Marx, optimists, thought improvement was the rule.

    Hegel is all but entirely dismissed by Popper as a pretentious windbag writing difficult if not unintelligible prose about a world spirit moving through the ages coming to fruition in the the glorious Prussian monarchy by which Hegel was employed to philosophize for the state. For him, there is no higher calling for the individual than to be of service to the state.

    Marx, on the other hand, is given a significant amount of credit by Popper for being a very observant, insightful analyst of capitalism as it had developed up to the time at which Marx wrote his magnum opus,

    (1867). Where Marx falls down, Popper writes, is in his prediction of the inevitable demise of capitalism at the feet of the proletariat (the working people) and his far too simplistic view of society as composed of only two classes, the workers and the bourgeoisie (the employers/capitalists). This mystical view of the future turned out to be wrong. The most obvious reason for the error is that Marx could not foresee the power of labor, through democracy, to impose restrictions on capitalism, taming it for a while.

    Popper's reasoning here, written in 1962, fails to see the power of capitalism to come roaring back in our time to essentially dismantle all of the reforms (and the unions) that restrained it, doing so through the corruption of democracy by unrestricted campaign funding that empowers the corporate lobbies. But this doesn't detract from Popper's argument, he would never claim to be able to predict the future.

    As powerful as volume 1 was in explaining the writing of Plato for the layman, volume 2 is even more powerful in explaining the voluminous writing of Marx, not in detail but in the fundamental ideas that Marx was attempting to relate to his readers. Thanks to Popper, I have never understood the basis of Marx' work as well as I do now, nor the atmosphere of the time in which Marx wrote that so forcefully directed his thoughts.

    This book is well worth reading for two reasons.

    The first is that Popper demonstrates the power of reason in the careful way he writes and the distance he goes to provide evidence for his thinking. This work is most of all a defense of reason. Popper is adamant that for reason to work, ideas must be able to contend for approval. Argument is vital. Advance comes only out of disputes that are resolved on evidence, concerning society this means the evidence found from "piecemeal engineering" where society is exposed to change in one small area at a time and the result is seen to be beneficial or not. Never will some grand plan for a new society work because it can never account for the many errors in detail and the internal contradictions that will defeat it. In the face of unavoidable problems with a grand plan, it will end up imposed no matter what, meaning heads will roll to take care of opposition (see the French Revolution). This is exactly the opposite of a just society that values the individual.

    The second reason to read this book is to get a solid grip on Marx, a man Popper feels was a humanitarian at heart, honestly eager to advance the cause of the virtually helpless multitudes of the mid 19th century. Though Marx was a believer in reason he was unable to hold to it, falling victim to a view of inevitable social change in a specific way that would follow his prophesy. That prophesy, thoroughly discredited by events since his time, has unfortunately led most to make the error of dismissing his work entirely.

    As for Popper's writing, a high school student would have no trouble following the logic and just might learn the power of logic in the process.

  • Lucas

    Just a quote:

    "It should perhaps be admitted that the Heraclitean ethics, the doctrine that the higher reward is that which only posterity can offer, may in some way perhaps be slightly superior to an ethical doctrine which teaches us to look out for reward now. But it is not what we need. We need an ethics which defies success and reward. And such an ethics need not be invented. It is not new. It has been taught by Christianity, at least in its beginnings. It is, again, taught by the industrial

    Just a quote:

    "It should perhaps be admitted that the Heraclitean ethics, the doctrine that the higher reward is that which only posterity can offer, may in some way perhaps be slightly superior to an ethical doctrine which teaches us to look out for reward now. But it is not what we need. We need an ethics which defies success and reward. And such an ethics need not be invented. It is not new. It has been taught by Christianity, at least in its beginnings. It is, again, taught by the industrial as well as by the scientific co-operation day. The romantic historicist morality of fame, fortunately, seems to be on the decline. The Unknown Soldier shows it. We are beginning to realize that sacrifice may mean just as much, or even more, when it is made anonymously. Our ethical education must follow suit. We must be taught to do our work; to make our sacrifice for the sake of this work, and not for praise or the avoidance of blame. (The fact that we all need some encouragement, hope, praise, and even blame, is another matter altogether.) We must find our justification in our work, in what we are doing ourselves, and not in a fictitious ‘meaning of history’.

    History has no meaning"

  • Tom

    4 1/2 stars. This is a pretty extensive refutation of Marx's (inspired by Hegel's) historicism. "Scientific Marxism is dead," Popper claims, and that's also an apt summary of the work as a whole. I think that he is undoubtedly right in the main in his treatment of Marx, and I'm obviously not going to go through the arguments he proffers against Marx's historicism, but I'll just provide some general remarks and one criticism.

    First, although it's clear that Popper abhors historicism, his treatment

    4 1/2 stars. This is a pretty extensive refutation of Marx's (inspired by Hegel's) historicism. "Scientific Marxism is dead," Popper claims, and that's also an apt summary of the work as a whole. I think that he is undoubtedly right in the main in his treatment of Marx, and I'm obviously not going to go through the arguments he proffers against Marx's historicism, but I'll just provide some general remarks and one criticism.

    First, although it's clear that Popper abhors historicism, his treatment of Marx is refreshingly fair. He takes great pains to emphasize the aspects of Marx's work he finds commendable (his humanitarianism, rationalism, sociological analyses, etc.). It's very satisfying to read an author who doesn't turn his criticisms into an outright vitriolic polemic.

    His treatment of Hegel (confined largely to one chapter) is pretty hilarious. He ridicules most of his philosophy and links it to totalitarianism. He's much harsher on Hegel than Marx. I know that many people have taken issue with Popper's treatment of Hegel, but from the (admittedly little) familiarity I have with Hegel's philosophy my sympathies would have to lie with Popper.

    Popper also provides an excellent and lengthy addendum detailing his theory of knowledge, which was an unexpected but welcomed addition.

    My one criticism is that Popper praises Marx's anti-psychologism in sociology as one of his greatest contributions to modern social theory (that is, the position that sociology is not ultimately reducible to psychology). Apart from the fact that I disagree with Marx and Popper here, it's a little baffling that Popper would consider this one of his greatest achievements. Marx's greatest achievements lay in unveiling the dangers of "unrestrained" capitalism, as Popper calls it. Of course, Popper does mention this as one of his significant contributions, but to put anti-psychologism in the same breath devalues it immensely. It doesn't help that psychologism (a word I don't really care for) has established itself as the most likely correct position, either.

    I would advise all Marxists to read this. All libertarians, or classical liberals, as well. Both positions are critiqued, and one is the better for reading Popper's excellent work.

  • Naing Lin

    I personally found it more intriguing to read than the previous volume, part of the reason is I'm not familiar with Plato and Aristotle than that of Karl Max and Hegal. It's perhaps either incorrect notions of representation has existed over our culture like their hardliners used to say about it. Nevertheless, the ideas and concepts are distributed via various media outlets after all.

    I still feel that His attack on the particular concept is not always rigorous but occasionally the other are pre

    I personally found it more intriguing to read than the previous volume, part of the reason is I'm not familiar with Plato and Aristotle than that of Karl Max and Hegal. It's perhaps either incorrect notions of representation has existed over our culture like their hardliners used to say about it. Nevertheless, the ideas and concepts are distributed via various media outlets after all.

    I still feel that His attack on the particular concept is not always rigorous but occasionally the other are pretty absorbing. I like the way he depicts the similarily between right-winded nazism and communists and both are derived from the idea of Hegel. I also discovered that some others got the same conclusion even they don't read the same book. For example

  • blakeR

    Not nearly as engaging as

    . It might be because the material of Hegel's and Marx's philosophies are necessarily more complex than that of Plato and Aristotle. But I also got the impression that Popper, through a large part of the volume, left the discussion of an "open society" off to the side while he treated his preferred topic of historicism, along with other, less relevant tangents (many having to do with Marx's economic theories). The result was a book that I labored to get through,

    Not nearly as engaging as

    . It might be because the material of Hegel's and Marx's philosophies are necessarily more complex than that of Plato and Aristotle. But I also got the impression that Popper, through a large part of the volume, left the discussion of an "open society" off to the side while he treated his preferred topic of historicism, along with other, less relevant tangents (many having to do with Marx's economic theories). The result was a book that I labored to get through, as opposed to Vol. I, which I was consistently thrilled to pick up.

    Although not an integral part of his criticism, Popper's treatment of Hegel's dialectic theory left me scratching my head. I'm not a Hegel expert, but I know enough to understand that his model of dialectics is considered perhaps his greatest achievement. Popper devoted a whopping three paragraphs to the discussion before discarding the idea out of hand, the result of a logical progression that needed better development.

    Popper's views on democracy, science and technology continued to trouble me as well. A short passage will help illustrate:

    Excuse me? Yes machines can have all the labour, thereby freeing the labourers to. . . do what, exactly (besides lose their jobs)? Shortening the work day will solve all of our problems? And people will earn money how? I am sure that Popper would have a ready reply to this criticism (as he appears to have for every other), but the apparent lack of foresight in this comment was shocking. Maybe a smarter person can help me out here. Besides this particular passage, Popper demonstrates throughout the book an unwavering faith in science, technology, reason and the democratic process that at times seems delusional.

    The best example is with his rationalism (the faith in reason that I just mentioned). Besides the fact that Popper admits it is logically unsustainable (requiring a leap of faith in order to believe in reason at the outset), and that this initial leap of faith requires that Popper then allow other uses of faith and irrationality in order to maintain consistency (which he neglects to do), the rationalism itself has some disturbing trends. Throughout the book, Popper uses language that implies an act of violence toward the natural world. Something that is inherently unnatural must be "subjected" or "submitted" to our reason, in our effort to control it. I enjoy using reason and logic as much as the next guy, but I wonder if a better approach toward something outside of our control and understanding might be a role of

    , and coordination, in order to more healthily interact with our surrounding environment. This is, after all, one of the main points of his rationalism, that we use reason to cooperate with our fellow humans. Why not extend that idea to the natural world?

  • Robin

    Well written, and some interesting insights, but generally disingenuous towards Hegel and Marx, and I think unfairly and quite incorrectly attributes 'methods' to them that are not quite right, but which become convenient anchors for Popper to "deconstruct" them and show their inherrant weaknesses.In this regard he is dishonest and disappointing. But like many conservatives, his criticisms do apply to a certain clique within the left, and no doubt has won him many admirers.

  • C. Varn

    While Popper's critiques on the dangers of total ideas can be helpful, but ultimately this is a fairly vapid critique.

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