While Karl Popper was writing The Open Society and Its Enemies during a working holiday in New Zealand the poet W H Auden wrote an essay about maintaining standards of criticism in a mass society. That is a society where many people are literate but hardly any read with discrimination. They both used the terms open and closed societies to create a framework for their ideas.
We are frequently and correctly told that one of the most precious privileges of a democratic state is the right to free self-criticism. If we care, then, about the preservation of that democracy, our first duty is to discover how this right is, in fact, exercised. It will not take us long to discover that in a modern society, whatever its political form, the great majority prefer opinion to knowledge, and passively allow the former to be imposed upon them by a centralized few—I need only mention as in example the influence of the Sunday book supplements of the newspapers upon our public libraries.
If we are concerned, as I think we should be, at this trend, we shall accomplish nothing by cries of lamentation or superior sneers; we cannot hope to effect any reform unless we can discover, firstly, what it is in the structure of our society that makes for this state of affairs, secondly; how far the molding of the opinions of the few by the many is inevitable, and then what steps it is possible to take within the inevitable to minimize its dangers and take advantage of its possibilities.