Karl Popper in Africa: Liberal-Communitarianism as Ideology for Democratic Social Reconstruction

Journal of Philosophical Investigations 17 (42):1-12 (2023)
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This paper examines the liberal society that Popper lauds, that aims to be truly open, and discusses why another, more communitarian kind of society, particularly societies in Africa, may also reflect the quest for intellectual openness that is Popper’s ideal. Moreover, this paper avers reasons why Popper should be comfortable with such a liberal-communitarian mix. The inter-subjectivity in his critical rationalism is a balance of an explicit individualism, and an implicit social element (Afisi, 2016a). Popper is indeed an author of such a balance. For a society to be truly open requires the careful recognition and protection of individual freedom. However, the extent to which individuals are free to perform actions that they desire without external constraints, and the level of their individuality in relation to others when performing such actions, remain a contentious issue between liberals and more communitarian thinkers. Popper’s critical rationalism provides the necessary impetus to this contention through his view of freedom that I contend can best be viewed as carefully balanced, a view which combines individuality with a social element that upholds community values necessary for openness of society. With this combination, Popper’s politics of liberalism provides an effective model of how a truly open society can be achieved. The values inherent to Popper’s liberalism including those concerning intellectual openness, individual freedom, mutual respect, measured self-respect, welfarism, humanitarianism, accountability, critical debates and feedback from the citizens, together concern the conditions for a society to be truly open. There are many competing thoughts as to what openness might be in Popper’s philosophy. The present study of Popper does not presume to address them all. The focus here is specifically on using Popper’s idea of critical rationalism to balance relations between liberal politics of individual rights and freedom, and communitarian politics of the common good, as it relates to situations about how socio-economic and political conditions in Africa societies should be structured. While I contend that Popper’s works in political philosophy focused centrally on Western political tradition, and not about Africa in its strict sense, significant lessons can be distilled from Popper that can offer suggestions on social reforms in Africa. This paper explores Popper’s project of the open society across the plurality and differences of societies, so that his liberal ideas of individual freedom are not undermined, and the progress of the communitarian idea of the common good, that Africa societies are built upon, is also well enhanced. Liberal individualism and community values inherent to communitarianism are both well accommodated within Popper’s critical rationalism.

Author's Profile

Oseni Afisi
Lagos State University


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