I was a bit too young to follow the debate in the early 1970s between Herbert Marcuse and Sir Karl Popper. But if asked to choose between the two I would have enthusiastically thrown my lot in with Marcuse - choosing hot revolution over dreary incrementalism. What sex-crazed teenager wouldn't buy into Marcuse's Marxian/Freudian notion that Eros was the creative force behind all civilization, and "late capitalism" channeled erotic impulses into consumerism and therefore had to be transformed. But into what? Marcuse, in his Essay on Liberation, is noticeably vague on what a "liberated" society might look like, but he was an energetic supporter of Third World "revolutions":
"In Vietnam, in Cuba, in China, a revolution is being defended and driven forward which struggles to eschew the bureaucratic administration of socialism. The guerrilla forces in Latin America seem to be animated by that same subversive impulse: liberation." (Herbert Marcuse, Preface to Essay on Liberation, 1969).
Freedom of Expression, The First Amendment? - all manifestations of late capitalist "Repressive Tolerance". Marcuse's theory - I'm ashamed to say - made a big impression on my teenage self. It wasn't until much later - after spending time in the Arbeiter-und-Bauern-Staat (DDR) in the late 1970s and early 1980s - that I began to understand the wisdom of Sir Karl Popper's The Open society and its Enemies (1947). By then I had studied Freud's Unbehagen in der Kultur and had a different understanding of Eros - of its destructive tendencies - and had read much modern history, including accounts of Cultural Revolution and The Great Leap Forward, which led to the slaughter of 40 million Chinese citizens. Utopian thinking,as Popper illustrates with Plato, tends to morph into tyranny.
Popper wrote his treatise just as liberal democracy had managed to survive its greatest existential threat. Now the open society is once again facing threats which just a few years ago were unthinkable.
Ob AfD, Pegida, Hogesa, Salafisten, Graue Wölfe, abstruse linksradikale Reste antiimperialistischer Gruppen im Umfeld der Linkspartei, Nazis, Anhänger von Verschwörungstheorien, Esoterik und diverse ökoreligiösen Strömungen – fast alle diese Gruppen wachsen mit besorgniserregender Geschwindigkeit und so unterschiedlich sie auch sind, besteht zwischen ihnen in wesentlichen Punkten Einigkeit: Sie lehnen eine offene, pluralistische Gesellschaft ab. Antiamerikanismus und Antisemitismus sind bei ihnen mindestens weit verbreitet wenn nicht sogar ideologische Grundlage. Die Medien nehmen sie nur noch als Lügenpresse wahr. Offene Debatten sind ihnen verhasst.
(Whether AfD, Pegida, Hogesa, Salafi jihadists, Grey Wolves, abstruse radical left-wing remnants of anti-imperialists groups close to the Left Party, Nazis, fans of conspiracy theories, esoteric groups, diverse eco-religious elements - nearly all of these groups are growing at a speed that of great concern. And, as diverse as they are, they all have one essential thing in common: they reject the open, pluralist society. Anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism are widespread with them, if not the core ideology. They see the media as the "lying-press"; any open debate is anathema to them.)
I don't want to live in a world where Donald Trump is US president and Marine LePen is president of France, where migrant children seeking security and prosperity are gunned down at the border. Question is, do we still have the will any more to defend the open society?
Was eine Offene Gesellschaft nicht erträgt ist, wenn sie gleichzeitig angegriffen wird und sich zu wenige finden, sie zu verteidigen. In diese Situation kommen wir langsam...
(What the open society cannot tolerate is that it comes under attack and very few can be found to defend it. We are slowly coming to this predicament...)