Sofia University, Bulgaria
Open Society (Popper’s seminar)
CEU, Budapest, 1996
NOTIONS IN POPPER’S OPEN SOCIETY
1. What are the open and closed societies open and closed to?
Open Society doesn’t have any “ends”. All purposes of this society are unique individual lives.
Closed society is closed to the spontaneous freedom of life. The Community is quasi-life, it is not “a person”’ but still it is something alive as a cultural unity. Totalitarian State and very man-made closed society with some “end” like “to make new world”, to build up new Man”, “ to make the people happy” is not yet any unity. This is simply population under some power control.
1. There is two kinds of social closeness:
a. organic – clan, tribe, village, “people”, “nation”. Community. World is described by the faith and myth. You are not asked to “enter” in such a society, as you are not asked to speak or not to speak the language of you matter.
b. mechanic – sect, secret society, criminal group, parts of an army and secret services, in some sense professional groups, when they work on secret project, in some extent – firm, totalitarian state or “camp”. You are asked to “enter” in such a society, as you are pressured to be a part of it, or you are simply violated to do that. There is rituals
Closed society is collectivist and holist. It puts the individuum in “its place”, identify it as a “function” in the “organism”, or non-living “organization”. We can see easy, that in the spontaneous, “organic” closeness, in the community, the individual wants to live in this community. In the closed society, individual is more or less under the pressure, violence to stay in this society. In the first case, closeness does not necessary reject individual freedom.
So, created by engineering closed society is closed as a specific Idea, project, a process of building. Every building project is closed in the sense, that it is not possible to change the project at the period of building-up. Closed society is closed as an area. Every building-up area is closed. So, totalitarian society is isolated from the non-totalitarian societies.
Man-made, rational-projected society is non-organic phenomena. It’s form is non-living. It’s form is rather mechanical. Such a form insists some energy to keep itself. If “material” is living individuals, that means violence.
1. Openness is problematical. There is not an absolute openness. In every society there is some kind of “values”, “accordance”, “coherence”, otherwise it can not be constituted. So, Popper conjectures humanity against violence, individualism against collectivism, reason against mystics. So, open society is “closed”. It is, first of all, a community of agree about these values personas. The Christians are a community. According to New Testament, all people are brothers. It is a community.
Other problem is culture. In the West “openness” in Popper’ sense is depending from Greek “logos”, “epistema”, “scientific rationality”, “rational policy and government” (Veber). And what about the East? West showed them to produce, to use science, to make democracy. Is that in an accordance with Buddhism, with Islam? Shall we try to destroy these spiritual worlds. And what rational position we have to have about “openness” of Mahayana to all living creatures.
What, if some of these individuals believes in mystics and in reason in some way, if it doesn’t wont to reject irrationality of love, blood brotherhood, patriotism, religious faith together and sometimes maybe against rational trust, altruistic respect, cosmopolitanism, scientific rationality?
Then we must recognize the real complexity of life and don’t to fix “open society” as an “purpose”, “end of history”, which is against the very “openness”.
2. How does “the strain of civilization” lead to historicism?
1. The positive sense of the “Strain of Civilization” is, according to Popper, the responsibility of every human being as an rational and free individual, his maturity to admit the looses of the civilization and risks to live in openness. That means admission of norms rejecting any other forms of resolving the interpersonal conflicts besides peaceful negotiations and rational critics.
The negative sense is loosing the organic unity, loosing his “home”, standing in the non-living place, in more chaotic society. The moral of the Glory and the Heroism is death. Good old times are far away. This is terrible according to Plato and all these new democrats are in some criminal sense “killers of the Cosmos” and leader to the “chaos”.
The form of Change is:
– from magical faith to rational one;
– from collective life and to individual life,
– from obedience to freedom and responsibility;
2. There is a process of expansion here. The population increase more intensively, than insists the static and harmonic reproduction. This is the case in the Athens in the 5-th century before Christ. Such is the case in every exploding of “traditional community”, or developing of the rational, expansionist abstract society of Modernity. We find the same process in all industrial countries. Migrations from villages to the cities, emigrations to the rich modern countries, economic transition trough the state boundaries.
3. Now, let us read Popper from two actual situations of a very big strain of Civilization:
1. World Industrialization – opening of the traditional society; and
2. Transition in Eastern Europe and Balkans – opening of the ex-communistic societies.
There are such negative effects of the expansion of the Western industrial civilization:
– World wars;
– Conflicts between big cultures: for instance Islam and Christian world;
– Acting in superindustrial town and living in the world of pure consciousness of Buddhism.
4. Of course, the totalitarianism of the 20-th century was much bigger evil. Such a “closed societies”, as Nazi Reich and Communist Camp killed more people than in the wars, excluded some countries from the flow of the Western Civilizations.
5. Communism is past. But openness after communism is nothing like a simple “progress” . Here “the strain of Civilization” means:
– to destroy the economy; to live in shock year after year and not to see the end of this “transition”; to concentrate the energy for simple surviving;
– to loose many billions of dollars after looses in the Communist times and to be ready to give back all debts: Communist and post-communist. To admit the measures of the Great civilized countries against some closed countries, which are standing in the way of the Great countries and to loose other billions of dollars;
– to loose great part of the produced wealth in the period of the “free fall” of post-communist economy as a simple robbery from the state economy. This wealth to work abroad for the some of the “open societies”;
– to loose millions of young good educated people, who doesn’t want to life in misery.
– to life in a misery;
– to loose your national honor;
– to be “bad” or “good” student in “openness” in the “university” of the Great Open societies.
Popper speaks about the difference between egoism and individualism, and respectively between altruism and collectivism. Let us have a look at the situation of “openness” through these categories. Let us ask: Is Western moral a good one (individualistic and altruistic, non-egoistic and collectivist).
The answer is: This is unknown in history great pressure, which is very-very far from the “free and responsible individuality”, “human rights” and “rationalism”. This is in very big extent a collectivist egoism of the Western against Eastern Europe. Now West have a Central Europe as a new part and this division is part of the egoistic and collectivist moral.
This contemporary answer the question of “strain of civilization” shows, I believe, how “the strain of civilization” leads to left reaction, moral nihilism and to criminal closeness of parts of the power and people in the post-communist countries. And maybe here will arise some new kind of the “historicism”, more evil than communism. We can see the nationalist conflicts and wars, which make Balkans and Asian extra-soviet parts more and more unhappy and more and more poor, which make the West (or the worst part of it) more and more rich.
4. Does piecemeal engineering necessarily works?
Popper makes very important difference between “piecemeal” and “utopian” social engineering. He does not define them very precise. But they work very well in his theory.
1. Opposition “piecemeal” and “utopian” is not very good. It is not symmetrical and logically exclusive. The “piecemeal” does not mean “non- utopian”. On the other hand, we can do something non-utopian, which is not piecemeal. It seems, Popper shows the opposite. Let us have a look.
When I want to control the work of my harm’s cells, this is an utopian technology. When I want to control some “peace” of the someone’s mind’ it is an utopian engineering, because we believe the human mind is not consists of “parts”. When I wont to make part of the street movement to be “left”, and other “right”, there will be terrible crash. If Kant insist only for some part of the humans his “categorical imperative”, it is not any moral and free law. And one last “post-communist” instance: We can not make a market economy and in the same time to maintain essential part of the property state. In any case we can not make “partly central planned and partly market economy”. We can not jump over the gap step by step.
All this instances show, that “utopia” does not exclude “piecemeal”. We can act on the units as on some un-dividable.
2. What we can and what cannot make (in the society)?
– We can not make Life and World. All utopian great and not so great projects are projects for making “ideal state”, “human happiness”, “new world”, “new man”, “new life”’ “freedom” etc.
– We can not make nothing living. There is not in the history of technology successful creating of “live sell”, “body”, “creature”. In the natural science this is like “impossibility to make an eternal engine. Life can be born of life, never by human making. This dogma, close to all religies, can be refuted, if someday in some lab someone creates living cell from non-living elements. Let the people try to make living cell or eternal engine. This is an utopia, which is not dangerous. But if someone wants to try such a thing on me, I will never permit. So will you, I believe.
– When somebody tells me “I will make all you happy, if we found new society without individual freedom, responsibility, property and life. Would you take part?”’ then I would suggest him to find somebody else”. The totalitarianists doesn’t ask about your choice.
All instances of totalitarian utopia are some kind of technology on living things, living human. And in some sense they are “demiurgian”. They want to create some new world, not less.
3. Has the history (or, the History, for that matter) any sense?
According to Popper:
1. The history is not an “ontological entity” (this is not very important question for him).
2. The history does not have any “end”.
3. The history does not have any “laws”.
4. The history does not have any “sense”.
5. The writing “History”, the political history, is simply a history of the biggest mass murders.
6. The Historicism is a form of irrational faith in “sense”, “laws” of history and makes man weak to make senses and to realize them in the free and responsible action.
7. We can not predict or prophesy the future – it is not pre-defined.
I could add:
1. The history as a history of the human creatures has some “form” – this is not a history of Gods or Animals. That means, that in the history there are some “sense” or all senses we give to the history, have this “metasense” – human life.
2. The culture has a form, “individuality” – language, myths, symbols, religion, habits, world-description, cultural forms.
3. Every culture has some beginning and some end. In this “biography” every culture have it’s specific “sense” and “senses”.
4. The culture of the “open society” is not simply a human – it is western, rational, it is born by “logos”. It define the sense of the history as “a humanity and freedom of the individual” or “ society of the openness of the all free and self-responsible individuals”.
So, we can think about “Open society” as an universal and meta-historical fait. Then it is a form of “historicism”. We are “historicists” of a very special kind, but still historicists.
5. For Popper:
– history is part of nature, it is a field of “facts”;
– history is freedom.
Both notions comes from Immanuel Kant. The Dualism of facts and Norms – too.
6. Popper’s antihistoricism is weak against naturalism as the Marx’s theory of history as a determined by objective natural laws and categorized in his “historical materialism” as a chain of “formation” like “geological formations”.
7. I think, it could be better to identify “demiurgism” as a totalitarian ideology. When the purpose is “new world” (new Man, new Society and so on), it is an Utopia. Nobody can build up “the world”.