In a period of unprecedented economic uncertainty, mass unemployment, recession and an increasingly populist political discourse the open society is under threat. From growing discontent about the enforcement of human rights to the atomising impact of the internet, from free market capitalism to the paradox of diversity, the pillars of liberal democracy are being called into question. An additional irony is that many of the threats to our openness have come from ideas and interventions that have been regarded as crucial components of the open society.
Over the course of 2011, Demos hosted a series of debates and discussions about the open society and the threats it faces. This collection is the result of those debates. It explains some of these paradoxes of openness, describing how they emerged in our discussions and why they matter for policymakers.
A key first step to reinvigorating the open society, the collection suggests, is to recognise the contradictions and dichotomies inherent within it and to identify where being more closed may allow us to be more open. Whether it means regulating financial services more heavily to avoid domination, protecting skills and labour, particularising human rights or monitoring and engaging with developments in social media, Open Dialogue argues that it is sometimes necessary to protect our social and political openness by rejecting some of the tropes of conventional liberalism.