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The Viennese Socrates

Karl Popper and the Reconstruction of Progressive Politics

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Philip Benesch

The Viennese Socrates: Karl Popper and the Reconstruction of Progressive Politics examines Karl Popper’s attempt to develop a political theory that draws upon Socratic fallibilism and commitment to ethical autonomy while preserving progressive sociological insights and commitment to activism. Philip Benesch argues that Popper’s critique of Marxist theory is largely an endeavor to separate its progressive-activist core from its positivist and uncritical-rationalist entanglements. The author defends Popper against the charges of positivism and scientism leveled by the Frankfurt School, among others. Although he is in no sense an apologist for Popper’s commentary on the classical tradition of philosophy, Benesch contends that Popper’s philosophical contribution is of classical breadth and significance and that it continues and advances «the great conversation» that is the substance of the classical tradition.

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Preface............................................................................................................ ix Introduction: Karl Popper, the Viennese Socrates .................................... 1 Popper, Socrates, and Antipositivism ....................................................... 2 Popper and Marxism................................................................................. 5 Post-Platonic Progressive Politics ............................................................ 8 Popperian Political Science .................................................................... 11 Challenges to the Popperian Program ........................................................ 14 The Road Ahead ..................................................................................... 18 1. Encounter with Marxism ..................................................................... 21 Revolution and Revelation ..................................................................... 22 Marxism and Democracy: Popper’s Critique ......................................... 25 Marx, Engels, and Democracy ............................................................... 27 The Dictatorship of the Proletariat ......................................................... 29 Marxism and Ethics ................................................................................ 34 Historicism: Three Preliminary Criticisms ............................................. 37 Moral Historicism: an Evaluation .......................................................... 40 2. Capitalism and After ............................................................................ 45 Marx’s Central Prophecy ........................................................................ 46 The Imperialism and Embourgeoisement Theses ................................... 48 The Concentration of Capital ................................................................. 51 Reform or Revolution ............................................................................. 52 Evaluation (1) Implications of the Falling Rate of Profit ....................... 54 Evaluation (2) Marxism and Social Technology .................................... 56 Evaluation (3) Mass-Consumption and Reform ..................................... 57 Popper and the Labor Theory of Value .................................................. 60 Alienation and Property Entitlements .................................................... 63 Measures and Metrics for a ‘Transitional’ Program ............................... 65 Coordination and Calculation in Communism ....................................... 68 vi The Viennese Socrates: Karl Popper and Progressive Politics 3. Threat from the Right .......................................................................... 73 The Open and the Closed Society .......................................................... 74 The Closing of the Viennese Enlightenment .......................................... 78 Patriotism and Ethno-nationalism .......................................................... 79 Pedagogy and School Reform ................................................................ 81 Othmar Spann and Reactionary Social Theory ...................................... 83 The Alliance of Philosophy and Authoritarian Politics .......................... 84 Hegel as the ‘Missing Link’ in the Totalitarian Chain ........................... 88 Popper and Hegel: an Evaluation ........................................................... 91 4. Ascent from the Cave ........................................................................... 95 Doxa and Episteme ................................................................................. 95 Towards a Post-Positivist Philosophy of Science ................................... 97 Non-Relativistic Fallibilism ................................................................. 100 Modified Essentialism and Verisimilitude ........................................... 103 Popper’s Dialectics: Inverting Platonism ............................................. 105 The...

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