Karl Popper, the Open Society, and the Cosmopolitan Democratic Empire



In The Open Society, written in New Zealand during WWII, Karl Popper invented the cosmopolitan democratic empire as an antidote to ethnonationalism. Popper, a non-Marxist socialist, protested that the nation-state was a charade and, in his portrayal of classical Athens, merged the images of Austria-Hungary and the British Commonwealth into a utopian democratic empire. The empire was an open society that would provide a home to the assimilated Jewish intelligentsia, which was excluded on racial grounds from the European nation-states. Jews were not to expect, however, recognition of their culture: Assimilation remained the best solution to the Jewish Question. Emerging from Jewish anxiety, Popper’s cosmopolitanism formed a marvelous imperial vision that failed to allay his own fears of antisemitism.


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© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of History, Political Science, and ReligionThe Kenan Institute, Duke UniversityDurhamUSA

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