A Perspective of Oscar Wilde’s Viewpoint

The Unchanged Society: A Perspective of Oscar Wilde’s Viewpoint

            The statement, “Nowadays people know the price of everything, and the value of nothing,” is still true today as it was in 1890 when Oscar Wilde put it in his novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray. Leading a valueless life that supports indecency is a common attribute that has consistently filtered through past generations into the present world. As a result, even though time has changed and people now live in ultramodern environments that are changing fast, the tendency to sideline or ignore moral values has remained unchanged. It is a misery that present-day communities are surrounded with incredible circumstances such as technologies that were unimaginable less than a decade ago, yet sinful behaviors are similar and as pervasive as they were more than two centuries back. Wilde’s 1890 claim that people know the price of everything and the value of nothing is duplicated in the current world in the form of aggravated self-interest, the continued triumph of economic interests over ethics, and the rise of the double life that preaches morality but practices indecency.

            Wilde’s assertion is a reflection of modern-day evils that are purely as a result of deep-rooted self-interests that overlook underlying values. There is no doubt that the selfish behaviors that push people to pursue harmful individual goals in the modern generation are manifested amidst full knowledge of explicit and time-honored norms. In many incidents, the desire for personal interests leads to blatant or unconscious disregard of essential values. Cross-cultural analyses that study the causes of moral deviance or deterioration have established that self-centeredness is a common attribute that makes people to ignore the needs of others or collective goods such as fairness (Taneri, Gao, & Johnson, 2016). Consequently, modern societies replicate the Wilde’s presumption by proving that self-interests are everything, whereas values are nothing.

            The prominence of economic interests in today’s relationships also makes Wilde’s statement a valid description of modern societies. The desire for money in modern markets erodes the need for ethical behavior (Chen, 2016). For example, lack of social discipline is linked to materialism. Due to callous greed, people define their relationships based on money and accepted norms such as brotherhood, equality, and integrity are disappearing. In other words, economic gain is everything that people know with the value of other things receiving little or no interest.

            Double life that promotes principled values but practices indecency is the other factor that shows Wilde’s claim is still true today. A majority of people or organizations lead insincere lives that do not portray their true intentions or personalities. The statement by Wilde is a philosophical depiction of a situation in which life is treated as a game with the overall goal being the need to maximize individual profit. For example, there are many businesses that are willing to use deceptive values to raise their stock or to build their brand. Pontefract (2016) established that companies such as Coca-cola and Volkswagen have t used false corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives to improve employee commitment. As a result, deception is a popular practice that reinforces the insignificance of value.

Wilde’s 1890 statement that people know the price of everything and the value of nothing is still applicable today. It is evident in aggravated self-interest, the triumph of economic interests over ethics, and the rise of double life. People are willing to disregard values for their own self-interest. The greed for money is also undermining the relevance of ethical considerations. Finally, double life that is driven by personal gain has normalized deceptive behaviors that mock the essence of values.


Chen, D. (2016). Markets, Morality, and Economic Growth: Competition Affects Utilitarian Judgment (No. 16-45). Toulouse School of Economics Working Papers.

Pontefract, D. (2016). Faking corporate social responsibility does not fool employees. Forbes. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/danpontefract/2016/09/24/faking-corporate-social-responsibility-does-not-fool-employees/#2c9bfc307994

Taneri, P.O., Gao, P. S.J., & Johnson, P.S. (2016). Reasons for the deterioration of moral values: cross-cultural comparative analysis. In WEI International Academic Conference Proceedings Boston.

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