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Europe’s Global Mission

Europe is in search of its identity. I believe it is easy to find: the European Union embodies the principle of open society, which could serve as a force for a global open society.

Let me explain what I mean.

The concept of an open society was first used by the French philosopher Henri Bergson in his book The Two Sources of Morality and Religion . One source, according to Bergson, is tribal and leads to a closed society whose members feel affinity for each other but fear or hostility towards others. The other source is universal, leading to an open society guided by universal human rights that protects and promotes the freedom of the individual.

Karl Popper modified this scheme in his seminal book The Open Society and Its Enemies , published in 1944. Popper pointed out that an open society can be endangered by abstract, universal ideologies like communism and fascism. Because these ideologies’ claim to be in possession of the ultimate truth is bound to be false, they can be imposed on society only through repression and compulsion. By contrast, an open society accepts uncertainty, and it establishes laws and institutions that allow people with divergent views and interests to live together in peace.