Open Society Research Platform


Open Society Research Platform

As a political and philosophical concept, ‘open society’ has its origins in the works of Henri Bergson and Karl Popper, which gained momentum and sparked active debate in the post-war period. In recent years, however, open society has moved to the margins in public debate, academia, and policy literature. The ‘Open Society Research Platform’ (OSRP) was, therefore, launched in January 2021 with the support of the Open Society University Network (OSUN) to explore how the concept of open society has been used in academic, policy, and public discourses, and to identify the major strands of relevant debates around this contested concept.

There is a strong need for a project devoted to academic research on open society for two interconnected reasons: First, because it is a core value in the missions of both CEU and OSUN; and second, because it is important to analyze how the idea of open society can be translated into civic, intellectual, and knowledge-exchange practices to foster critical thinking and positive change. The OSRP’s ambition is to be(come) an intellectual powerhouse on the concepts, themes, and questions that lie at the very heart of OSUN’s and CEU’s missions as well as a hub for critical and trans-disciplinary conversations and collaborations.

Our Work in 2021

The OSRP seeks to identify the multiple and often diverging applications of the concept of open society in theory and practice, to offer a rigorous analysis of the scholarly discussions around this complex idea, and to probe the institutional and political implications of different open society discourses. As such, the OSRP supports and contributes to inter- and trans-disciplinary scholarly research and public debate on open society as an intellectual and policy tool, albeit with a critical orientation.

The platform seeks to achieve its objectives through a ‘three-pronged approach’, which includes:

I. Research on the literature and institutional operationalization of the open society concept: 

In this context, our research in the first year has been guided by three specific purposes:  

  • To map academic and public debates on the concept of open society and to develop a comprehensive picture of existing research since the end of the Cold War. 
  • To map open society’s operationalization in organizational and institutional contexts and to analyze how this contributes to the re-interpretation of the concept.
  • To map the geographical and intellectual scope of open society, and to address the question if the concept of open society has gained traction beyond the historical and geographical context within which it was originally developed.

Based on our research, we have written a detailed report and created a comprehensive database on the literature on open society

II.  Organization of academic events:

In 2021, the OSRP hosted a series of workshops (so-called ‘OSUN Talks’) in which new insights and ideas on the theoretical and practical relevance of the concept of open society were developed in interactive discussions.

A major academic conference (28-29 October 2021), entitled Forget Open Society? Critical Conversations on a Contested Concept, with eight panels and three keynote events brought together leading and emerging scholars from various disciplines to discuss open society in theory and practice (see conference program)

The OSRP has launched a reading group titled Thinking Between the Times (Link to Program), aimed primarily at graduate students from within OSUN, to revisit Popper’s work and to read it alongside the texts of other major thinkers of the mid-20th century (Arendt, Berlin, Benjamin, Polanyi).

III. Collaboration with OSUN Partners

The OSRP actively collaborates with, and contributes to the work of, OSUN partners. In so doing, the platform contributes to OSUN’s mission of providing spaces for critical conversations across traditional disciplinary boundaries and, simultaneously, uses the impulses from these collaborations to further develop the concept of open society.