Into the practical application of piecemeal social engineering
: challendes and solutions

Student thesis: Master's Thesis


This thesis will present an analysis of how the concept of Piecemeal Social Engineering developed by Karl Popper in The Open Society and Its Enemies (1945) and in The Poverty of Historicism (1957) can be translated from a philosophical notion into a practical attitude. This application of Piecemeal Social Engineering into a practical context raises some challenges, some of which this thesis will look more in depth. The aim of this thesis is therefore to analyse three proposed general problems occurring upon the practical application of Piecemeal Social Engineering, as well as to answer the question of whether it is possible or not to act in order to solve them and how. The three problems presented will be divided into ‘structural’ and ‘non-structural’ issues. While it is not possible to act directly upon structural issues since they are negative externalities of the application of Piecemeal Social Engineering, it is possible to reduce them with the continuous application of this method while gaining efficiency from direct experience. On the other hand, despite being ‘unnatural’ to the Piecemeal approach, non-structural issues are liable to be tackled by direct intervention, having a concrete solution. In order to unveil the solution to non-structural problems, it will be analysed whether contemporary Open Societies are sabotaging its fundamental feature of critical reasoning. It will be deduced that the way into the solution to this problem is to rebuild a strong critical reasoning framework within the Open Society, and to use it not only inside the Open Society but to the Open Society framework itself. This endeavour will be based on the idealistic dimension of Piecemeal Social Engineering corresponding to the Tradition of Liberty which not only coexists, but is in fact the foundation for the emergence of individual blueprints within a single Open Society.
Date of Award2015
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Universidade Católica Portuguesa
SupervisorJoão Carlos Espada (Supervisor)


  • Mestrado em Governação, Liderança e Estudos sobre a Democracia

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