Support C4SS with Oscar Wilde’s “The Soul of Man Under Socialism”

C4SS has teamed up with the Distro of the Libertarian Left. The Distro produces and distribute zines and booklets on anarchism, market anarchist theory, counter-economics, and other movements for liberation. For every copy of Oscar Wilde’s “The Soul of Man Under Socialism” that you purchase through the Distro, C4SS will receive a percentage. Support C4SS with Oscar Wilde’s “The Soul of Man Under Socialism“.


$2.00 for the first copy. $1.00 for every additional copy.

Originally circulated in 1891 as a privately printed book, by the world-renowned gay Anglo-Irish Aesth­et­icist poet, play­wright and critic Oscar Wilde (1854-1900). Wilde declared himself an anarchist following his encounter with the Russian expatriate anarchist Peter Kropotkin. His artistic work, and his later persecution, trial and imprisonment for his sexual relationships with male lovers were widely and sympathetically discussed in the Anarchist press during the 1890s, and his Anarchist writings were later reprinted by Emma Goldman and Alex­ander Berkman’s Mother Earth publishing company. The essay offers a fascinating exploration of the cultural impacts of anarchistic socialism and individualism — not as a tearing-down of all in the name of rigidly formal equality, but rather a liberating opportunity for all to fully express what makes them unique, and and flourish in their idiosyncrasy.

“We are often told that the poor are grateful for charity. Some of them are, no doubt, but the best amongst the poor are never grateful. They are un­grate­ful, dis­con­tent­ed, disobedient, and rebellious. They are quite right to be so. Charity they feel to be a ridiculous­ly in­ade­qu­ate mode of partial rest­it­ut­ion, or a sentimental dole, usually ac­com­panied by some im­pert­i­n­ent attempt of the senti­mentalist to tyrannise over their private lives. Why should they be grateful for the crumbs that fall from the rich man’s table? Dis­obe­d­ience is man’s original virtue. It is through dis­obed­ience that pro­gress has been made, through dis­obed­ience and through rebellion. . . .

“It is clear, then, that no Authoritarian Socialism will do. . . . Under an industrial bar­rack sys­tem, or a system of economic tyranny, nobody would be able to have any such freedom at all. Every man must be left quite free to choose his own work. No form of compulsion must he ex­er­c­is­ed over him. . . . All association must be quite voluntary. It is only in vol­unt­ary associations that man is fine. . . . Socialism itself will be of value simply because it will lead to Individualism.

“Art is Individualism, and Individ­u­alism is a disturbing and disintegrating force. Therein 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. . . . Self­ish­ness is not living as one wishes to live, it is asking others to live as one wishes to live. And unselfishness is letting other people’s lives alone, not interfering with them. Selfishness always aims at creating around it an absolute uniformity of type. Unselfishness re­cog­nises infinite variety of type as a delightful thing, accepts it, acquiesces in it, enjoys it.”

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