Reading Oscar Wilde, pt.2

The antidote to ‘the people’ is the individual, and the the antidote to the tyranny of the people is the free expression of the individual, which is individualism. Oscar Wilde thinks of socialism as the way to perfect individualism; private property engenders an individualism that is not fully realized: “The true perfection of man lies, not in what he has, but in what man is. Private property has crushed true Individualism…”.

The people want property; the individual wants freedom from it. The socialist knows that private property is a curse on individuals – firstly poor ones, then wealthy ones – and pursues the possiblity of private property being replaced by a more civilized state of affairs.

But with individualism, “authority and compulsion are out of the question.” So the socialist is oblivious to ‘seizing power’, as if there were any power other than one’s own. The moment authority and compulsion appear on the scene, so to do ‘the people’. We don’t fear the prince or pope today – it’s the authority of the people that oppresses the individual. From yesterday’s totalitarian brutality to today’s democratic servility – it’s tyranny in the name of ‘the people’: “In the old days men had the rack. Now they have the Press.”

Note: “Double quotes” are from The Soul of Man under Socialism.


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