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The Open Society and Its Enemies, Volume II:…

The Open Society and Its Enemies, Volume II: Hegel and Marx (1945)

by Karl Popper

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Not nearly as engaging as Volume I. 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:I do not intend to belittle the very serious problem of purely mechanical work, of a drudgery which is felt to be meaningless, and which destroys the creative power of the workers; but the only practical hope lies, not in a return to slavery and serfdom, but in an attempt to make machinery take over this mechanical drudgery. Marx was right in insisting that increased productivity is the only reasonable hope of humanizing labour, and of further shortening the labour day. Ch. 24, Sec. IV, 2nd paragraph
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 cooperation, 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? ( )
  blake.rosser | Jul 28, 2013 |
Popper's critique of Hegel and Marx is right on point. He doesn't have anything good to say about Hegel's obscure philosophy but gives plenty of credit to Marx's good intentions. He analyzes clearly the motivations behind Marx's philosophical method and admits that Marx could not have anticipated the historical developments which eventually proved the key aspects of his theory of capitalism to be wrong. He directs the strongest critique against modern-day marxists who still cling to this outdated social theory. After he's finished with Marx he presents some chapters on philosophy of science and philosophy of history which seemed a bit disconnected from the earlier parts and weren't of any interest to me at least. Nevertheless, books this good are seldom written today.
2 vote thcson | Mar 30, 2012 |
Camus' critique of Marx's thought is a lot better: more reasonable, less boring. ( )
  Ramirez | Jul 26, 2009 |
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En bok jag fick av min vän översättaren och som jag läste med intresse.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 069101972X, Paperback)

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:09:50 -0400)

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The book is a profound defence of democracy. It is a criticism of a set of dogmas which underlie the most influential political theories, and in consequence powerfully affect the actual conduct of human affairs.

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