In this passage from Unto this Last, Ruskin attempts to separate the "true work" of a man from the element of profit making, but in doing so, seems to use a tactic which he earlier criticized.

Observe, the merchant's function is to provide for the nation. It is no more his function to get profit for himself out of that provision than it is a clergyman's function to get his stipend. This stipend is a due and necessary adjunct, but no the object of his life, if he be a true clergyman, any more than his fee (or honorarium) is the object of life to a true physician. Neither is his fee the object of life to a true merchant. All three, if true men, have a work to be done irrespective of fee — to be done even at any cost, or for quite the contrary of fee; the pastor's function being to teach, the physician's to heal, and the merchant's, as I have said, to provide. [178]

Isn't Ruskin committing the same offense which he accuses Mill, Ricardo and Smith of perpetrating, by creating a sort of ideal person whose different elements that of wage-earner, and that of professional can be isolated and examined irrespective of each other? How is this idealization of the human being more realistically applicable than the earlier political economists' assumption of a selfish, greedy human nature?


Website Overview Screen John Ruskin Leading Questions

Last modified 26 February 2002