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The Soul of Man under Socialism

3.95  ·  Rating details ·  2,619 Ratings  ·  210 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
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Published (first published March 15th 1891)
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Feb 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Oct 28, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Soul of Man under Socialism is an 1891 essay by Oscar Wilde in which he shares his socialist world views and examines the role of art within society.
The chief advantage that would result from the establishment of Socialism is, undoubtedly, the fact that Socialism would relieve us from that sordid necessity of living for others which, in the present condition of things, presses so hardly upon almost everybody. In fact, scarcely anyone at all escapes.
Oscar argues that, under capitalism, the
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
May 31, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Salman Tariq
Dec 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Its is the only book I want in add in my "read again shelf" .
Its satire about stuff we talk about, like Drama , Arts and Literature ; stuff we dont like to talk about,for instance our myopic approaches to the earlier headings I mentioned.
A must must read.


To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.

Who dictates art

Upon the other hand, whenever a community or a powerful section of a community, or a government of any kind, attempts to dictate to the artist what
Apr 02, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 25, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Dec 09, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
2 stars because the doctrine is faulty, would be 5 if it were based on writing. Thoroughly enjoyed understanding socialism from Wilde’s point of view, despite the blatant misrepresentation of scripture and reality.
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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
More about Oscar Wilde...
“The public have an insatiable curiosity to know everything, except what is worth knowing.” 1248 likes
“Art is the most intense mode of individualism that the world has known.” 209 likes
More quotes…