Book Review: The Open Society And Its Enemies: 2: Hegel And Marx

The Open Society And Its Enemies:  2:  Hegel And Marx, by Karl Popper

It is a great shame that my local library system does not have the first volume of this collection stocked but only the second, but as someone who finds much to enjoy in reading Popper, this book is certainly a thoughtful and provocative read that has a lot to say against the sort of prophetic culture that has become increasingly popular in Western Civilization from the 19th century onward.  Given the malign influence of Hagel on both Nazis and socialists and communists, this book was helpful not only in demolishing the ideological support for the Nazis who made Popper an exile from his native Austria but also made him a hero to anti-Communist figures who saw in his discussion of the problems of prophetic intellectual culture a way to discredit the claims of Communists to be destined for historical success.  Ultimately, the success of the efforts against Communism made this book somewhat forgotten, although the reliance on prophetic approaches by the left ought to make this book increasingly relevant where people rely on bogus and fraudulent means to argue that they are on the right side of history when it comes to a wide variety of political and social issues.

This particular volume is about 300 pages worth of material in fifteen chapters, chapters 11-25 of a longer work.  The author begins this part of his work by discussing the rise of oracular philosophy by examining the Aristotelian roots of Hagel’s thinking (11) as well as the way that Hagel sought to encourage and inflame a new tribalism (12) which was supported by the Prussian state because of its usefulness to them.  After that the author spends five chapters discussing Marx’s methods of sociological determinism (13), the argument for the autonomy of sociology (14), economic historicism (15), his view of classes (16), which has been repeated to the present-day by many ignorant and misguided writers, and Marx’s views of the legal and social system (17).  After that the author spends four chapters examining the failure of Marx’s prophecies concerning the coming of socialism (18), the inevitability of the social revolution (19), the fate of capitalism (20), all of which the author ties up nicely in an evaluation of Marx’s thinking and where it went wrong (21).  After that the author discusses the moral theory of Marx’s historicism (22) and the aftermath with a look of the sociology of knowledge (23) and the problems of the revolt against reason that Marx and Hagel’s disciples showed (24).  Finally, the book ends with a discussion of the meaning of history (25) as well as notes, addenda, an index of names, and an index of subjects in the book as a whole.

Popper may have been an enemy of the open state himself, but at least he wrote about the sort of things that an open state needs in order to survive.  It seems likely that Popper’s desire to preserve an open society had nothing to do about whether he personally was open to the thinking and opinions of those whom he disagreed with, but rather that as a Vienna Jew who had seen the writing on the wall when it came to the lack of openness in both Nazism and Marxism recognized that the ideological root and justification of closed societies needed to be addressed.  Popper took a dim view of historicism in general and that can definitely be found here, and Popper’s takedown of Hagel and the corruption of philosophy by the German state is well worth paying attention to when we reflect upon the failure of German politics not only with Hitler but even in the contemporary issue with the corruption of “climate science.”  This book has some memorable and snappy and witty comments against some of the most notable philosophical frauds of the post-Enlightenment period and is well worth an appreciative read.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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2 Responses to Book Review: The Open Society And Its Enemies: 2: Hegel And Marx

  1. capnhollis says:

    I appreciate Hegelian philosophy, and Popper instrumental perhaps more than history allows. One of my fave eras of philosophy, second only to the pre-Socratics.

    • I don’t think appreciating Popper is by any means a bad thing–I once examined a popular definition of science from a Popperian perspective as an undergrad–so perhaps I am in the same category myself.

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