The Open Conspiracy: out there to be discovered

The Open Conspiracy: out there to be discovered
Forest out there to be discovered © Nikolaos Kastrinos

The open conspiracy is a book by H G Wells. It was first published in 1928. Its title is intriguing. Self-contradictory. Openness and conspiracy do not mix well. How can a conspiracy be open? 

I came across it in a charity shop in Stirling, Scotland. The title caught my eye. I opened it.

"Chapter One: The Present Crisis in Human Affairs"

Sounds familiar? It should. The 21st century has been but a succession of crises in human affairs - the financial crisis, the climate and biodiversity crisis, the migration crisis, the pandemic crisis, the planetary crisis, the crisis of democracy. Crises abound.

I began to read. "The world is undergoing immense changes. Never before have the conditions of life changed as swiftly and enormously as they have changed for mankind in the last fifty years". I have made this speech, I thought. In fact, anybody who has worked in technology futures has given this speech. The acceleration of change is a "megatrend" [1]

So I continued reading. The storyline, the building of the argument, was eerily familiar. I had a feeling that this person had written my thoughts almost a hundred years ago. Sure, I could pick the odd detail that seemed old fashioned or the odd moral point I would disagree with. But five chapters into the book I had given up on the idea of my having orignal thoughts and was fully taken by kinship and clarity of purpose: the open conspiracy is open because it is obvious. It is a conspiracy because it is already happening but remains unacknowledged, hidden from those who do not cast their curiosity in its direction. Yet, it should not be secretive, self-interested, undemocratic. Openness, engagement and participation is a moral imperative for its practitioners - those who think, act and influence the way world affairs are organised. 

I looked for reviews of the book on the internet. Publishers describe it as one that "hopes to create a world which is politically, socially and economically unified, ultimately leading to a revolution aimed at peace, welfare and happiness - a world commonwealth" [2]. Wells himself described it as a "scheme to thrust forward and establish a human control over the destinies of life and liberate it from its present dangers, uncertainties and miseries." [3]

Commentators are divided. Some see it as an argument for the necessity of good world governance.  Others say that it reveals the true intentions of undemocratic technocrats and the horrors of socialism. I found the Open Conspiracy to be an invitation to participate in a conversation about how humanity should manage its collective affairs. A conversation that is desperately needed if we are to avoid the perils the permacrisis of the early 21ts century seems to have in store. A conversation that requires openness and dignity, rigour and responsibility.

According to Wells's biographers, the book was very influential in the mid 1930's [4], a period in which the idea of world challenges was as familiar as it is today. There is no doubt in my mind that the memory of the destructive path set for the world in the 1930's, makes good world governance necessary. I am certain that making the case for good world governance the right thing to do. Yet, this is not an unquestionable conclusion. Has the Open Conspiracy played its historical role and failed? Or was it part of the circumstances that led to the disaster of WWII? Is learning from the past condemning us to repeating its mistakes? Or is it giving us an opportunity to avoid them? 

Recognising that to do the right thing is the most difficult of human duties, I felt compelled to start this blog, which is seemingly about a book - I plan to post on individual chapters and their contemporary relevance - but at the end of the day I think that it will evolve to become about crises and doing the right thing. Stay tuned.


[1] See 

[2] See

[3] H.G. Wells, The Open Conspiracy: Blue Prints for a World Revolution (Garden City, New York: Doubleday, Doran, 1928), p. 198, cited in

[4] David C. Smith, H. G. Wells: Desperately Mortal: A Biography (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1986) and Michael Sherborne, H.G. Wells: Another Kind of Life (London: Peter Owen, 2010) cited in