open vs. closed societies

a little bit more from robin fox (links added by moi) [pg. 325-26]:

“What is closed in the Closed Society [as opposed to popper’s open society] is the future, because it is thought either to eternally repeat the present, or to recycle fixed ages, or to change in completely known and fixed ways. The Closed Society seeks to ignore, deny, and arrest, or to predict and hence totally control, social change. The Open Society accepts the unpredictable reality of change and deals with it. (The roots of this idea were there in Henri Bergson’s philosophy, and his ‘open morality’ and ‘closed moratlity’ — but that is another essay: see The Search for Society.)

“This contrast was present from the start in the great conflict between democratic Athens (potentially Open but with a heavy burden of Closed features) and tribal Sparta (completely and utterly Closed): the subject of Popper’s first volume (The Spell of Plato). Athens had passed consciously from a tribal society to a democratic city-state, which in turn morphed into a maritime empire. (Curiously, Popper, while making much of Solon and Pericles, does not mention the reforms of Cleisthenes, which were critical to the change. [yes, they were. – hbd chick] Athens struggled to maintain its democratic system, both against outside opponents and against inside forces. By becoming an empire it threatened its own democracy. [hmmmm – sounds familiar.]

The old order of tribal families, which Cleisthenes had tried to break down, hated democracy and conspired with Sparta, the archtypal closed tribal society, which just as consciously arrested change as Athens had embraced it. Many of the Athenian intellectuals took the pro-Spartan side. Plato, Popper’s nemesis, led the intellectural justification for a Spartan-style society in The Republic and The Laws. Plato’s relatives were active in the council of the Thirty Tyrants, who conspired with Sparta and led a reign of terror in Athens.

didn’t know that about plato.

previously: demokratia (in case you missed that link in the text. (~_^) )

(note: comments do not require an email. reinstate plato pluto!)

6 Comments

  1. The thing about Athenian democracy is that it only lasted about 60 years. Thus it was more the idea of democracy rather than the reality that got established. As I recall, Alcibiades, one of Socrates’s love objects, betrayed his home town to the Persians. What was that about? Then, when Sparta finally prevailed, what happened next? I think it was next war with the Corinthians, followed closely by war with the Macedonians, and we know who won that last one. Back then history was little more than the story of warring states in a relentless competition for power. And it lasted that way right on up to the end of WWII. For my hunch on how, and when, it got started check out my letter to Goody, posted here: http://vixra.org/abs/1101.0027 :)

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  2. “By becoming an empire it threatened its own democracy. [hmmmm – sounds familiar.]”

    It’s almost a corollary. A group gets to that democratic stage and the increase in productivity, efficiency and innovation leads to a big jump in power relative to their neighbours leading to an empire which then undermines the democracy.

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  3. @g.w. – “A group gets to that democratic stage and the increase in productivity, efficiency and innovation leads to a big jump in power relative to their neighbours leading to an empire which then undermines the democracy.”

    in a way, then, the Closed Society peoples have it right — history does seem to repeat itself — they just get the details wrong. history repeats itself, presumably, because we’re dealing with some biological laws here.

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  4. “in a way, then, the Closed Society peoples have it right”

    Well they force it to be. It’s basically risk-minimizing. It will work best unless and until there’s a major shift in the environment e.g a load of europeans show up in a metal gunboat.

    .
    “history repeats itself, presumably, because we’re dealing with some biological laws here”

    So ultimately, if the open society can avoid destroying itself long enough to figure out those biological laws they could end up with the best of both worlds closed in those aspects that harm and open in those aspects that make it possible to survive a major shift in the environment e.g a load of Martians showing up in a hard-light space gunboat.

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  5. “make it possible to survive a major shift in the environment e.g a load of Martians showing up in a hard-light space gunboat.” Or in the case of America the need to eventually some day migrate to Canada in case global warming shifts the temperate zone that far north. Hopefully Canada will welcome us, and maybe the Scots, Irish, and Brits as well?

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  6. @g.w. – “So ultimately, if the open society can avoid destroying itself long enough to figure out those biological laws they could end up with the best of both worlds….”

    well, that’s the goal i’m working towards, anyway! (^_^)

    Reply

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