Rethinking Open Society

New Adversaries and New Opportunities
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Publication date: 
310 pages

“Who were open society’s old enemies, when the idea first took shape in 1945 in Karl Popper’s work? Who are the new enemies of open society, the ones we confront today? And then, the most difficult question of all: Has the open society ideal outlived its usefulness?” - From the Introduction

The key values of the Open Society – freedom, justice, tolerance, democracy and respect for knowledge – are increasingly under threat in today’s world. As an effort to uphold those values, this volume brings together some of the key political, social and economic thinkers of our time to re-examine the Open Society closely in terms of its history, its achievements and failures, and its future prospects. Based on the lecture series Rethinking Open Society, which took place between 2017 and 2018 at the Central European University, the volume is deeply embedded in the history and purpose of CEU, its Open Society mission, and its belief in educating sceptical but passionate citizens.

“Closed societies are tempting because open societies are difficult to live in and their ideals are hard to practice. An open society is very demanding. It asks us to respect the dignity of others, especially of those with whom we may disagree and to make choices for ourselves and our community. It offers us no readily applicable solutions, no straightforward recipe for a better world, but demands that we make reasoned choices, often in perplexing, uncertain, and frightening times.” - From the Introduction

CONTRIBUTORS: Anne Applebaum • Erica Benner• Dorothee Bohle • Thomas Christiano • Tim Crane • Niall Ferguson • Timothy Garton Ash • Béla Greskovits • Michael Ignatieff • Robert D. Kaplan • János Kis • Ivan Krastev • Mark Lilla • Margaret MacMillan • Jan-Werner Müller • Alina Mungiu-Pippidi • Stefan Roch • Pierre Rosanvallon • Jacques Rupnik • András Sajó • Daniela Schwarzer • Sir Roger Scruton • Stephen M. Walt

By an accident of history, after 1989 the cart of state building had to be put before the horse of citizen building. There was an assumption amongst those who were optimistic—and I think it is an optimism that Popper, Berlin, and others shared—that once oppression and tyranny are removed, people naturally gravitate towards liberal citizenship; that we are naturally liberal. This is not true. Liberals are made; they are not born. Creating liberal citizens requires dampening some very natural impulses in the human soul, the concern for one’s self, for one’s family, and for one’s ethnic group. You must dampen those demands to build a different kind of attachment.” - Mark Lilla

“Conservatism is not against openness and change; it is concerned with the conditions that must be kept in place if those things are to be possible. The danger in liberal individualism is that it sees all constraint as unjustified, until proven to be necessary. It shifts the onus of proof constantly in its own favor, while jeopardizing the trust on which its own policies ultimately depend.” - Roger Scruton

“Education in the open society corresponds to the searchlight theory of the mind. The mind should be treated as an active problem-solving device, where learning occurs when we search for solutions to problems and for error in our solutions.” - Stefan Roch

“What matters about populism is anti-pluralism—the fact that populists exclude others morally and, if possible, politically, both at the level of party politics and, less obviously, at the level of the people themselves, where some citizens are said not to be part of ‘the real people’ at all… If liberals are serious of pluralism, they have to accept the legitimacy of those holding positions—and then fight the latter with everything they got by way of arguments, moral claims, empirical evidence, etc." - Jan-Werner Müller

Introduction by Michael Ignatieff

I) The Open Society Ideal: For and Against
• Mark Lilla and Michael Ignatieff, A Conversation Between Mark Lilla and Michael Ignatieff
• Roger Scruton, The Open Society from a Conservative Perspective
• Stefan Roch, Educating Skeptical but Passionate Citizens: The Open Society Ideal as a University Mission

II) Open Society in Practice: Democracy, Rule of Law, Free Speech and Secularism
• Thomas Christiano, Democracy Defended and Challenged
• Timothy Garton Ash, Free Speech and the Defence of an Open Society
• Tim Crane, Religion in the Open Society
• Andras Sajo, Constitutionalism in Closing Societies

III) Open Society in 21st Century Geopolitics
• Stephen Walt, Open Societies at Home and Abroad
• Niall Ferguson, Open Society and 21st century Globalization [Network Approach]
• Robert Kaplan, Eurasia, Europe, and the Question of U.S. Leadership
• Daniela Schwarzer, Germany and the Fate of Open Society in Europe
• Margaret MacMillan, War and Open Society

IV) Open Society’s New Enemies: The Authoritarian Competitors
• Jan-Werner Müller, How Can Populism Be Defeated?
• Erica Benner, Beyond Demagoguery? The Contemporary Crisis of Political Communication
• Pierre Rosanvallon, Populism and Democracy in Europe: History and Theory
• Anne Applebaum, The Enduring Appeal of the One-Party State

V) From Transition to Backsliding: Did Open Societies Fail?
• Dorothee Bohle, Capitalism and Democracy in East Central Europe: A Sequence of Crises
• Ivan Krastev, Perhapsburg: Reflections on the Fragility and Resilience of Europe
• Jacques Rupnik, European Divides: Crisis of Democracy, Nationhood, Multiculturalism
• Alina Mungiu Pippidi, The Open Society and the Problem of Corruption: Diagnosis and Remedies
• Béla Greskovits, The Political Economy of Open Society in East-Central Europe: Recent Trends

Conclusion by Michael Ignatieff

"When did the open society become so monotone? And what if the world doesn't want its problems solved by self-congratulatory people? The result of this gulf in understanding is written across our politics. Attitudes to higher education was one of the key factors in the vote for Donald Trump. In the Brexit referendum, whether or not someone went to university Was a stronger indicator of how they might vote than gender, age, or class. The essays in this book, which are based on a series of talks given at the Central European University in Budapest , show a clear awareness of this fault line."
"As closed or only seemingly open societies run by single party autocrats or self-declared illiberal democrats look to be ascendant across the globe, Rethinking Open Society offers a timely exploration of how this ideal can be made relevant for the 21st century and how the contest with its new enemies might best be waged. In his splendid introduction and concluding remarks to the volume, Ignatieff clarifies the agenda and summarizes the key insights of the volume, providing a balanced assessment of both the significant virtues as well as the notable shortcomings of open societies and their recent friends. A nuanced and excellent volume, both sufficiently diverse and focused to merit sustained attention."
"Abschließend bleibt festzuhalten, dass die Analysen mehrheitlich überzeugen. Feinde und Herausforderungen sind identifiziert, Handlungsbedarf konstatiert. Konsens ist, dass Liberale (und andere) mehr Selbstreflexion und -kritik üben müssten. 'Vertrauen' ist eines der Schlüsselwörter, die mehrfach in verschiedenen Beiträgen auftauchen. Allerdings bleiben Handlungsvorschläge, die nicht „more of the same“ lauten, rar. Dies mag u. a. daran liegen, dass die meisten Beiträger/innen weiterhin von den Vorzügen und dem Beharrungsvermögen Europas (vor allem der EU), des Liberalismus und der offenen Gesellschaft überzeugt sind. Ignatieff schließt das Buch entsprechend mit der Aufforderung, weiterhin den Dialog zu suchen und die offene Gesellschaft zu verteidigen. So bleibt dieser Band eine Zwischenetappe in einer Diskussion, die noch nicht zu Ende ist, aber neue Ideen und neuen Schwung benötigt, will man über Analysen hinaus neue Zukunftsvisionen entwickeln."