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The Soul of Man Under Socialism

3.95  ·  Rating details ·  2,455 Ratings  ·  193 Reviews
In The Soul of Man under Socialism Oscar Wilde expounds on an anarchist world view. Wilde argues that under capitalism the majority of people spoil their lives by an unhealthy and exaggerated altruism-are forced, indeed, so to spoil them: instead of realizing their true talents, they waste their time solving the social problems caused by capitalism, without taking their co ...more
Paperback, 48 pages
Published June 1st 2004 by Kessinger Publishing (first published March 15th 1891)
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Stefan
Feb 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This Oscar Wilde essay is one of the most prophetic and insightful works of 19th century political philosophy I have ever read. In this essay, Wilde talks about a world that we are only beginning to imagine now, over 100 years later. He saw the full potential of socialism and its possibility of freeing the human race once and for all. On the other hand, he warned us of authoritarian perversions of socialist thought that have become predominant in the 20th century, long after Wilde's death. He se ...more
Christopher
Apr 21, 2013 rated it liked it
Important: Wilde was not a philosopher but a writer and no one should be taking his "proposals" here too seriously.

I agree with other reviewers that his remarks on the excesses of capitalism are fair and his anarcho-libertarian/socialist dreams can even be alluring for certain people. But I also agree with another reviewer here that it's perplexing to decipher just how much of his essay is actually tongue-in-cheek and how much is serious proposal. Even Wilde once said, "I am so clever that somet
...more
John
Apr 17, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's hard for me to decide whether Wilde expected what he wrote in this little book to be taken seriously or whether he meant it as a satire of liberal thinkers and do-gooders. One thing is reasonably clear; Wilde himself seems to have made no serious effort in his own life to practice the ideas he expresses in The Soul of Man under Socialism.

Consider this from the book:

"The majority of people spoil their lives by an unhealthy and exaggerated altruism—are forced, indeed, so to spoil them. They f
...more
David
Apr 02, 2013 rated it really liked it
Oscar Wilde is one of my favorite authors. This book is full of Wilde's humor and wit, but in a way that turns political science into political art. His arguments are well thought out--especially when it comes to the differences between socialist and capitalist systems, and the effects of each on the individual.

In this book, he constructs a view of government that favors individualism in such a way that makes me wonder whether Ayn Rand ever read this. Wilde's view of a collective that cares for
...more
Joseph
Nov 25, 2012 rated it really liked it
The European Socialism movement of the 19th century is much different from socialism of today. Many things we take for granted in our so-called capitalist society simply did not exist then for the vast majority of people. Leisure time, vacation, property ownership, college education (or even high school education), child labor laws, did not exist for the vast majority. Barely subsistence wages and a huge pool of people needing work kept the majority of the population lock into wage slavery. Ther ...more
Katie
Jan 09, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Tripe. I am a fan of Oscar Wilde, so when I saw this book offered free on iTunes, I figured I'd check it out - I really wish I hadn't bothered. If I had to boil down what it seems that Mr. Wilde was trying to say it would go something like this: 1) People shouldn't have to work for a living; life's necessities should be provided by machines so that folks can spend more time contemplating their navels. 2) Artists are the greatest and most important group of people around. 3) If the general popula ...more
kaśyap
May 31, 2012 rated it really liked it
Wilde's egoistic utopia found on aesthetic ideals. A scoiety where there is no property, no poverty and hunger and no burdens of wealth. Where machines do all the tedious labour and a man is completely free to chose himself. Wilde seems more concerned with the banality of the bourgeois than the suffering of the proletariat. You can clearly see that this is an artist's vision.

It's interesting to contrast this with Ayn Rand. Invdividualism vs communism is a false dichotomy.
Girish
Jul 30, 2017 rated it liked it
The soul of man essay by Oscar Wilde is more a musing than a concrete ideology. He explores the concept of individualism and the necessary conditions for it to thrive. Though interesting and to an extent amenable - you can't shake off the feeling the author is not sure what he wants.

My takeaways - where I agreed most with the author:
- Private property can never be an indicator of success as it hijacks a man from reaching his potential. Whether the alternative is for abolishing private ownership
...more
Paul Pellicci
Dec 21, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: interesting
The Soul of Man under Socialism was a very interesting little book. Although, I don't believe Oscar Wilde's interests included the common Socialist schools. Yet, socialism was the fad of the day. Many intellectuals were interested in the theories, but Oscar was in his eyes an artist and an Individualist. Capital "I" on individualist.
I couldn't find a date for this writing, but I believe his legal problems and the rumors preceding his legal problems were actually the motivation, and not economic
...more
L
Jan 17, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Political and moral philosphers
Wilde turns Ayn Rand on her head by arguing only through Socialism can man be free enough to become creative and useful, whereby in Capitialism man spends too much time putting out the fires it causes and on which it thrives.
He seeks a non-authoritarian world whereby both government and corporations are not excessive. The power rests in guilds and not institutions.
As Fran Lebowitz writes: Capitalism came to Russia and destroyed Communism. Capitalism came to America and destroyed Democracy.
Wild
...more
Ahmad Sharabiani
The Soul of Man under Socialism, Oscar Wilde
عنوان: سوسیالیسم و فردگرایی؛ اثر: اسکار وایلد؛ مترجم: باوند بهپور؛ مشخصات نشر: تهران، نشر چشمه، زمستان 1386، در 91 ص، موضوع: سوسیالیسم
اسکاروایلد را بیشتر با رمان «تصویر دوریان گری» یا نمایشنامهی «اهمیت ارنست زنان بودن» و زندگی جنجالیاش میشناسند. با این حال، نوشتههای تئوریک وی جنبهای دیگر از خلاقیت و هوش و جسارت خاص ایشان و لحن تیز و شوخ و برندهاش را به نمایش میگذارد
...more
Timothy Warnock
Jan 07, 2014 rated it it was amazing
"the public have an insatiable curiosity to know everything, except what is worth knowing"

I adore Oscar Wilde's writing, he offers such a wonderful, yet sassy, and unique perspective -- this essay is ostensibly less about socialism as it is about art and individualism (opposed to authoritarianism), a wonderful read.
Friedrich von Uxküll
Apr 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: philosophy
A seminal but heterodox text in the history of Socialism. Wilde cuts against the grain with this short piece, he does not, as many socialists do, praise the people or democracy, but rather the individual and his artistic aspirations.

There are many aspects to admire in this text, however there are, in my humble estimation, spots that do not hold under scrutiny. The quips against 'friction' being the most egregious, it is (for many) only through such friction, antagonism, struggle, etc. that many
...more
Emma Roulette
Oct 22, 2015 rated it really liked it
Pretty good essay. Gets me excited thinking about the blossoming possibilities of living a competition-free life. And not just a life free of capitalist competition for private property, but all that that implies, too. Like social competition for respect and acclaim. Once free from these burdens, we are now able to pursue our "Individualism". Now we can take joy in things like self-cultivation, leisure, and learning.

Wilde thinks that any attempts to lessen the burden of private property, withou
...more
laura
Apr 06, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
"There are three kinds of despots.  There is the despot who tyrannises over the body.  There is the despot who tyrannises over the soul.  There is the despot who tyrannises over the soul and body alike.  The first is called the Prince.  The second is called the Pope.  The third is called the People"

Wilde writes indulgently in this book, a true champagne socialist. He talks largely about the soul of the wealthy and the artist under socialism. His accounts are not well backed, his arguments are l
...more
Mehmet Erkurt
Sep 06, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Genel sosyalizm tanımları bir yana, sanata ve otoriter devletle olan ilişkisine değinmesiydi beni esas vuran. Sanatın durumu, sanatçının durumu, gazeteciliğin hali... Her şey o kadar bugün ki. İşimi çok sorgulattı bana. Bir bakıma, sanattan da ne kadar kopuk olduğunu aslında. Sanat değil de zanaat olduğunu. Zanaat ve ticaret olduğunu. Bu kötü mü? Hayır, ama her aydınlanma gibi biraz yordu başta. Bunun dışında, kitaptaki bazı toplum savları temelsiz kalmış, havada süzülenler var. Yine de beni bir ...more
Sleepydrummer
Jan 09, 2015 rated it liked it
A bit of a spiel from the ever attentive Mr. Wilde. His observations are acutely precise, delving into the complex realm of man and his nature. He speaks of Jesus, social habits, communism, among several topics. His perspective seems reasonable from his point of view. Mr. Wilde’s plays and witticisms are well known, this side of the author is less so. We can see the seeds of de Profundis in this prose.
Aric Cushing
A man so ahead of his time it's shocking. He even predicts robots in the book's title essay. Don't miss this one.
Elizabeth
Jun 02, 2015 rated it really liked it
[4.5]

Thoroughly enjoyed this. Unputtdownable.

This has definitely tempted me to read more Wilde as well as more essays.
Santhosh
Oct 10, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
socialism
individualism
personality
individualism of the artist
non-interference into artists and creation of art
perfectly formed
realising one's perfection
full expression of a personality
Matthew Hunter
Other than reading The Picture of Dorian Gray and attending a production of The Importance of Being Earnest, I've spent very little time with the works of Oscar Wilde. I stumbled upon the title of this work while reading The Nation magazine. I'm glad I did!

For those curious about what Noam Chomsky means when he calls himself a Libertarian Socialist (aka anarchist), The Soul of Man under Socialism offers a good explanation.

Wilde argues that non-authoritarian socialism leads to individualism. He w
...more
Dimitris Hall
Nov 26, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
"[...]with admirable, though misdirected intentions, they [altruists] have seriously and very sentimentally set themselves to the task of remedying the evils that they see. But their remedies do not cure the disease: they merely prolong it. Indeed, their remedies are part of the disease.
They try to solve the problem of poverty, for instance, by keeping the poor alive, or, in the case of a very advanced school, by amusing the poor.
But this is not a solution: it is an aggravation of the difficult
...more
Amanda Alexandre
Jan 28, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: classic, non-fiction
If you 're a woman who decided to wait until 30 to have kids, or don't even know if you'll have them at all, then I guess you've been called a lot of these adjectives: “selfish”, “nascissistic” or “immature”. I know I was.

And then comes Oscar Wilde:

“...a man is called selfish if he lives in the manner that seems to him the most suitable for the full realization of his own personality; if, in fact, the primary aim of his life is self development. But this is the way everyone should live. Selfishn
...more
Michael William West
Tricky to 'review' as such. The gushing idealism of Oscar Wilde is wonderful to read, as is every word he put to paper. There's more than a little sense that Oscar would turn over society to his genre of socialism so that people might leave him alone to get on with his work, which is understandable, but the grounds are shaky. He's quite correct that the socialist movement would relatively eradicate the obscene poverty of the late 19th Century in Britain, but the leap from this baseline of surviv ...more
Gabriela Vasquez
I think that Oscar Wilde's viewpoint regarding individualism and reverence to a person's own unique self are clearly palpable, as well as his statement that humanity is perfectly capable of existing by itself but that a government needs humanity in order to exist in the first place. Where I differ with him is in his view that socialism will protect individualism.

His view that "socialism is the path towards Individualism and that property rights are not necessary." His defense for this view is t
...more
Heather
Jul 14, 2012 rated it really liked it
This is certainly worth a read, particularly for historians of nineteenth century social thought. Wilde's view is that socialism will lead to individualism, in the sense that everyone will be free under socialism to achieve his or her own artistic and contemplative potential. When the poor are free from the mundane necessities of work--Wilde envisions machinery performing all the necessary functions of life so that people can develop new ideas and create art--and the rich are free from the hassl ...more
Rosa Margarita
Jan 26, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Me queda claro que si Oscar Wilde hubiera vivido en esta época sería un fanático de facebook, de ser una celebridad seguro necesitaría alguien que controlara sus redes sociales para que no fuera a publicar algo inadecuado o inmaduro.
El esmero no solo para responder públicamente a los ataques si no también para estar al pendiente de los medios en caso de que alguien hablara mal de el, demuestran que era una persona bastante orgullosa y tal vez un poco inseguro por darle importancia a la gente qu
...more
Adriana Pereira
A short essay by Oscar Wilde exposing his thoughts on how Socialism can lead to Individualism and therefore giving people the freedom to be themselves.

Wilde appears to believe in the abolition of private propriety but he also believes that the best form of government is no government at all:

"If the Socialism is Authoritarian; if there are Governments armed with economic power as they are now with political power; if, in a word, we are to have Industrial Tyrannies, then the last state of man wil
...more
Jens
Feb 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy
A wonderful essay that oozes Wilde's humor and wit on every page. There are many reviews, interpretations and discussions of the essay widely available so I will refrain from commenting on the contents of the essay, other than I agree with some of Wilde's arguments, disagree with others, but every page has food for thought for any critical thinker whatever his political or social affiliations may be. I would have loved for a discussion of this essay in my early philosophy classes. Furthermore it ...more
Sandys Nunes
May 16, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Neste livro o autor deixa claro que o socialismo é apenas uma proposta, uma proposta que deve ser posta em prática. O ponto principal é algo maior que o socialismo, Oscar Wilde fala do indivíduo e de sua relação com o Individualismo.
Por Individualismo entende-se o aspecto de evoluir por si só e praticar aquilo que gosta, principalmente no trabalho e nas artes. O autor também fala da calmaria do povo diante de um governo ruim que dá agrados e mimos ás pessoas, sendo assim descrito por ele como a
...more
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Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde was an Irish playwright, poet and author of numerous short stories and one novel. Known for his biting wit, and a plentitude of aphorisms, he became one of the most successful playwrights of the late Victorian era in London, and one of the greatest celebrities of his day. Several of his plays continue to be widely performed, especially The Importance of Being E ...more
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“The public have an insatiable curiosity to know everything, except what is worth knowing.” 1231 likes
“Art is the most intense mode of individualism that the world has known.” 201 likes
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