Socialism Would Take Too Many Evenings

Oscar Wilde? H. G. Wells? George Bernard Shaw? Michael Walzer? Arnold S. Kaufman? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: Some forms of socialism are implemented via a participatory process. An engaged citizen would attend meetings, learn about different approaches, discuss topics, formulate policies, build consensus, and vote. These tasks can be quite laborious. Here are two versions of a critical statement:

  • Socialism would take too many evenings.
  • The trouble with socialism is that it takes up too many evenings.

This saying has been attributed to the famous wit Oscar Wilde, the science fiction author H. G. Wells, and the prominent playwright George Bernard Shaw. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: Oscar Wilde died in 1900. H. G. Wells died in 1946. G. B. Shaw died in 1950. QI has not yet found convincing evidence that this remark was made by any of these three luminaries.

The earliest match found by QI appeared in the journal “Dissent” in 1968. Political theorist Michael Walzer published “A Day in the Life of a Socialist Citizen: Two Cheers for Participatory Democracy”. Walzer asserted that: “Self-government is a very demanding and time-consuming business”, and he referred to “meetings of study groups, clubs, editorial boards, and political parties where criticism will be carried on long into the night”. Emphasis added to excerpts: 1

Socialism, Oscar Wilde once wrote, would take too many evenings. This is, it seems to me, one of the most significant criticisms of socialist theory that has ever been made. The fanciful sketch above is only intended to suggest its possible truth. Socialism’s great appeal is the prospect it holds out for the development of human capacities.

The statement attributed to Wilde was not enclosed in quotation marks; hence, it was possible that Walzer was using his own words to present a paraphrase or summary of Wilde’s viewpoint. Currently, QI does not know the underlying source, and QI hopes that this article can be used as a starting point for future researchers who will make additional advances.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Socialism Would Take Too Many Evenings

Notes:

  1. 1968 May-June, Dissent, A Day in the Life of a Socialist Citizen: Two Cheers for Participatory Democracy by Michael Walzer, Start Page 243, Quote Page 243, Dissent Publishing Corporation, New York. (Verified with hardcopy)