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After RuskinThe Social and Political Legacies of a Victorian Prophet, 1870–1920$
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Stuart Eagles

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199602414

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199602414.001.0001

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Ruskin's Politics: ‘NO WEALTH BUT LIFE’

Ruskin's Politics: ‘NO WEALTH BUT LIFE’

(p.27) 1 Ruskin's Politics: ‘NO WEALTH BUT LIFE’
After Ruskin

Stuart Eagles

Oxford University Press

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

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