"The Term 'open Society' Has Come Into Use In Recent Times. Are Public Libraries Essential Components Of Open Societies? Why, Or Why Not?"

1853 words - 7 pages

A public library which provides free and open access to information and differing points of view, is an essential component of an open society. To be an open society people need to feel safe expressing different viewpoints. A public library should be a place where someone regardless of race, age, wealth or beliefs can have open access to information and feel safe doing so. The main role of a public library in an open society is to uphold this ideal.What is an open society?The concept of an 'open society' was first originated by philosopher Henri Bergson and then popularized by Karl Popper. Born in Austria to parents of Jewish origins, Popper's childhood watching the rise of Nazism and his teenage experimentation with Marxism influenced his later writings. He wrote his 1945 book "The Open Society and Its Enemies" while in exile in New Zealand during World War Two.Popper believed that "nobody has access to the ultimate truth; our understanding of the world is imperfect, and a perfect society is unattainable." Therefore, he hypothesized, the best option is an open society-a society that realises its politics is imperfect but it is open for continual improvement and new ideas. In an open society a plurality of viewpoints and ideas are valued and encouraged. The opposite of an open society is a closed society that believes its way of doing things is the best and only way and is not open to criticism or a different way of doing things.A democracy is not automatically an open society. However, a democracy as we know it in the modern western world is probably the closest thing to an open society we have. In the words of Winston Churchill:"Many forms of Government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time."Intellectual FreedomFor ideas and viewpoints to flourish, people need open access to information. One of the key characteristics of an open society is intellectual freedom:"Intellectual freedom is the right of every individual to both seek and receive information from all points of view without restriction. It provides for free access to all expressions of ideas through which any and all sides of a question, cause or movement may be explored."A public library which promotes and supports intellectual freedom is therefore an essential component of an open society.Modern western democracies promote intellectual freedom as an important part of a democratic society. Democracy means "rule of the people" and its defining characteristic is that the government is elected by the citizens of that country. Intellectual freedom is important to citizens of a democracy because if they are to elect the government that best represents them they need to make a fully informed choice.Why is a public library essential to an open society?How is the role of a...

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