Det öppna samhället

Begreppet ‘det öppna samhället’ – eller ‘The Open Society’ – beskriver något som utgör en förutsättning för ett fritt demokratiskt samhället. Det öppna samhället kan sägas utgöra den en samhällsanda om hur människor ska bete sig för det vi kallar ett fritt och demokratiskt samhälle ska fungera liksom att en legitim stat måste vara en rättsstat som upprätthåller individuella mänskliga rättigheter. Det öppna samhället är grundläggande i min politiska analys men det saknas en bra lättåtkomlig beskrivning på nätet. Jag har här tagit två delar: inledningen från engelska wikipedias artikel om det öppna samhället samt de stycken som beskriver begreppet i Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophys artikel om Karl Popper.

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The open society is a concept originally suggested in 1932 by the French philosopher Henri Bergson,and developed during the Second World War by Austrian-born British philosopher Karl Popper. Popper saw the open society as standing on a historical continuum reaching from the organic, tribal or closed society, through the open society marked by a critical attitude to tradition, up to the abstract or depersonalised society lacking all face-to-face transactions. In open societies, the government is purported to be responsive and tolerant, and political mechanisms are said to be transparent and flexible. Advocates claim that it is opposed to authoritarianism. (Wikipedia)

Popper holds, the critical spirit can and should be sustained at the social level. More specifically, the open society can be brought about only if it is possible for the individual citizen to evaluate critically the consequences of the implementation of government policies, which can then be abandoned or modified in the light of such critical scrutiny—in such a society, the rights of the individual to criticise administrative policies will be formally safeguarded and upheld, undesirable policies will be eliminated in a manner analogous to the elimination of falsified scientific theories, and differences between people on social policy will be resolved by critical discussion and argument rather than by force. The open society as thus conceived of by Popper may be defined as ‘an association of free individuals respecting each other’s rights within the framework of mutual protection supplied by the state, and achieving, through the making of responsible, rational decisions, a growing measure of humane and enlightened life’ (Levinson, R.B. In Defense of Plato, 17). As such, Popper holds, it is not a utopian ideal, but an empirically realised form of social organisation which, he argues, is in every respect superior to its (real or potential) totalitarian rivals. But he does not engage in a moral defence of the ideology of liberalism; rather his strategy is the much deeper one of showing that totalitarianism is typically based upon historicist and holist presuppositions, and of demonstrating that these presuppositions are fundamentally incoherent.

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Popper’s critique of both historicism and holism is balanced, on the positive side, by his affirmation of the ideals of individualism and market economics and his strong defence of the open society—the view, again, that a society is equivalent to the sum of its members, that the actions of the members of society serve to fashion and to shape it, and that the social consequences of intentional actions are very often, and very largely, unintentional. This part of his social philosophy was influenced by the economist Friedrich Hayek, who worked with him at the London School of Economics and who was a life-long friend. Popper advocated what he (rather unfortunately) terms ‘piecemeal social engineering’ as the central mechanism for social planning—for in utilising this mechanism intentional actions are directed to the achievement of one specific goal at a time, which makes it possible to monitor the situation to determine whether adverse unintended effects of intentional actions occur, in order to correct and readjust when this proves necessary. This, of course, parallels precisely the critical testing of theories in scientific investigation. This approach to social planning (which is explicitly based upon the premise that we do not, because we cannot, know what the future will be like) encourages attempts to put right what is problematic in society—generally-acknowledged social ills—rather than attempts to impose some preconceived idea of the ‘good’ upon society as a whole. For this reason, in a genuinely open society piecemeal social engineering goes hand-in-hand for Popper with negative utilitarianism (the attempt to minimise the amount of misery, rather than, as with positive utilitarianism, the attempt to maximise the amount of happiness). The state, he holds, should concern itself with the task of progressively formulating and implementing policies designed to deal with the social problems which actually confront it, with the goal of eliminating human misery and suffering to the highest possible degree. The positive task of increasing social and personal happiness, by contrast, can and should be should be left to individual citizens (who may, of course, act collectively to this end), who, unlike the state, have at least a chance of achieving this goal, but who in a free society are rarely in a position to systematically subvert the rights of others in the pursuit of idealised objectives. Thus in the final analysis for Popper the activity of problem-solving is as definitive of our humanity at the level of social and political organisation as it is at the level of science, and it is this key insight which unifies and integrates the broad spectrum of his thought. (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy – Karl Popper)


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