“The Soul of Man under Socialism” is an 1891 essay by Oscar Wilde in which he expounds an anarchist worldview. The creation of “The Soul of Man” followed Wilde’s conversion to anarchist philosophy, following his reading of the works of Peter Kropotkin.
Wilde’s deepest concern was with man’s soul; when he analysed poverty and its causes and effects in “The Soul of Man under Socialism” it was not simply the material well-being of the poor that distressed him, but how society does not allow them to reach a form of self-understanding and enlightenment. He adopted Jesus of Nazareth as a symbol of the supreme individualist. Wilde advocated socialism, which, he argued, “will be of value simply because it will lead to individualism” and “substituting cooperation for competition will restore society to its proper condition … and ensure material well being for each member of the community.”
Wilde examined the political conditions necessary for full self-development and devotion to art, arguing, “Art is individualism, and individualism is a disturbing and disintegrating force. There lies its immense value. For what it seeks to disturb is monotony of type, slavery of custom, tyranny of habit, and the reduction of man to the level of a machine.”
In a socialist society, people will have the possibility to realise their talents; “each member of the society will share in the general prosperity and happiness of the society.” Wilde added that “upon the other hand, Socialism itself will be of value simply because it will lead to individualism” since individuals will no longer need to fear poverty or starvation. This individualism would, in turn, protect against governments “armed with economic power as they are now with political power” over their citizens. However, Wilde advocated non-capitalist individualism: “of course, it might be said that the Individualism generated under conditions of private property is not always, or even as a rule, of a fine or wonderful type” a critique which is “quite true.” In this way socialism, in Wilde’s imagination, would free men from manual labour and allow them to devote their time to creative pursuits, thus developing their soul. He ended by declaring “The new individualism is the new hellenism.” (Summary from Wikipedia.org)
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Chapter listing and length:
Section 1 — 00:20:54
Section 2 — 00:19:21
Section 3 — 00:12:39
Section 4 — 00:23:17
Section 5 — 00:21:36
Section 6 — 00:25:02
Total running time: 2:02:49
Read by Martin Geeson
In addition to the reader, this audio book was produced by:
Dedicated Proof-Listener: Dawn Larsen
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