Unto this last / The political economy of art / Essays on political economy

Title Unto this last / The political economy of art / Essays on political economy
Author John Ruskin; introd. by John Bryson
Publication Dent
Size XX, 311p
Language ENG ENG
ISBN 0460002163
Topics English essays
Arts--Philosophy and theory
Wealth--Moral and ethical aspects
Notes THE four following essays were published eighteen months ago in The Cornhill Magazine, and were reprobated in a violent manner, as far as I could hear, by most of the readers they met with. Not a whit the less, I believe them to be the best, that is to say, the truest, rightest-worded, and most serviceable things I have ever written; and the last of them, having had especial pains spent on it, is probably the best I shall ever write. "This," the reader may reply, "it might be, yet not therefore well written." Which in no mock humility, admitting, I yet rest satisfied with the work, though with nothing else that I have done; and purposing shortly to follow out the subjects opened in these papers, as I may find leisure, I wish the introductory statements to be within the reach of any one who may care to refer to them. So I republish the essays as they appeared. One word only is changed, correcting the estimate of a weight; and no word is added. Although, however, I find nothing to modify in these papers, it is matter of regret to me that the most startling of all the statements in them--that respecting the necessity of the organization of labour, with fixed wages--should have found its way into the first essay; it being quite one of the least important, though by no means the least certain, of the positions to be defended. The real gist of these papers, their central meaning and aim, is to give, as I believe for the first time in plain English--it has often been incidentally given in good Greek by Plato and Xenophon, and good Latin by Cicero and Horace--a logical definition of WEALTH: such definition being absolutely needed for a basis of economical science. The most reputed essay on that subject which has appeared in modern times, after opening with the statement that "writers on political economy profess to teach, or to investigate, the nature of wealth," thus follows up the declaration of its thesis: "Every one has a notion, sufficiently correct for common purposes, of what is meant by wealth." . . . "It is no part of the design of this treatise to aim at metaphysical nicety of definition." Metaphysical nicety, we assuredly do not need; but physical nicety, and logical accuracy, with respect to a physical subject, we assuredly do. Suppose the subject of inquiry, instead of being House-law (Oikonomia), had been Star-law (Astronomia), and that, ignoring distinction between stars fixed and wandering; as here between wealth radiant and wealth reflective, the writer had begun thus: "Every one has a notion, sufficiently correct for common purposes, of what is meant by stars. Metaphysical nicety in the definition of a star is not the object of this treatise"--the essay so opened might yet have been far more true in its final statements, and a thousand-fold more serviceable to the navigator, than any treatise on wealth, which founds its conclusions on the popular conception of wealth, can ever become to the economist. [preface]
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