UK: BOOKS - The book that shook.

UK: BOOKS - The book that shook. - 'The book that most influenced me is not a business book but one of political philosophy, Karl Popper's The Open Society and its Enemies. Popper systematically demolished the fallacies of totalitarian thought, tracing f

by ADAIR TURNER, director-general of the CBI.
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

'The book that most influenced me is not a business book but one of political philosophy, Karl Popper's The Open Society and its Enemies. Popper systematically demolished the fallacies of totalitarian thought, tracing from Plato to Hegel and Marx the intellectual lineage which asserts the primacy of grand ideas over the dictates of common sense, and which bestows on its adherents the glow of absolute certainty at the expense of humanity. Popper argued instead for an intellectual approach, which recognises the imperfection of our knowledge and accepts the need to live in doubt but which does not fall into a vacuous relativism.

He showed clearly the dangers of Utopian social engineering, but retained and justified a confidence that societies can and should pursue targeted social improvements. The Open Society is the classic statement of a humane liberal and democratic philosophy. Its lessons struck me with particular force on first reading it in the 1970s but its insights and intellectual technique remain as valid and valuable today.

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