Chapter

Ruskin's Politics: ‘NO WEALTH BUT LIFE’

Stuart Eagles

in After Ruskin

Published in print January 2011 | ISBN: 9780199602414
Published online May 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191725050 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199602414.003.0002
Ruskin's Politics: ‘NO WEALTH BUT LIFE’

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Ruskin overturned orthodox utilitarian notions of political economy by exposing the poverty and ugliness of Victorian social and industrial life which it underpinned. He contended that only an approach to political economy which promoted true wealth and beauty could stimulate a full, happy and healthy life. Rejecting all the basic defining terms of the prevailing discourse, Ruskin redefined political economy in communitarian terms resting on bonds of social affection. His background as an art critic led him effectively to ‘aestheticize’ economics, infusing notions of demand and supply, or consumption and production, with aesthetic judgements, and arguing that economics must be based on an ethic which acknowledges the absolute and intrinsic value of social justice. Ruskin's politics ultimately reduce to a call for action which inspired those who came after him to dedicate themselves to public service for the betterment of society and for the benefit of all.

Keywords: political economy; Victorian Britain; Ruskin; social affection; social justice; aesthetics; ethics; utilitarianism; orthodox economics; economic theory

Chapter.  10040 words. 

Subjects: Modern History (1700 to 1945)

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