Unto This Last by John Ruskin

John Ruskin gave his four essays published in 1862 the title Unto This Last when he brought them in book form. The title has reference to the parable of workers in the vineyard: “I will give unto this last even as unto thee.” in which one person tells the other that whatever is due to him will be given to him. In the ‘Preface’ to Unto This Last John Ruskin commented that his job was to define wealth and investigate its nature in a logical manner.

The second object of the book is to show that the acquisition of wealth is finally possible only under certain moral conditions of the society, particularly the quality of honesty. Ruskin believed that honesty is not the disturbing force which deranges the orbits of economy;it is, in fact, a consistent and commanding force which would keep these orbits clear of chaos. Ruskin laments that the English have lost faith in honesty and its working power. He feels that it is imperative for the English people to recover and practice honesty.

Ruskin also takes up the subject of the organisation of labour. He suggests that if we train our captains of industry in honesty, the organisation of labour will become easy. He also suggests that there should be training schools for the youth established at Government cost and under Government discipline. These schools should impart training to the youth along with other skills, the following three things:

  1. The laws of health, and the exercises enjoined by them;
  2. Habits of gentleness and justice; and
  3. The calling by which he is to live.

Ruskin also suggests that Government should undertake to manufacture all things necessary for human life. However, it should allow healthy environment for private enterprise as well. Thus the Government and private enterprise can co-exist in healthy competition. The Government should also see to it that all things are manufactured and sold in their pure form.Further, Ruskin suggests that any man or woman, boy or girl who is out of employment should be given suitable work. Training may be given to these unemployed people, if required. How-ever, if there are people unwilling to work as per their capabilities and potential they should be punished.

Lastly, John Ruskin recommends a respectable system of social support for the old and the destitute. They should be provided with home and comfort in a manner which would generate a feeling of honour instead of guilt among them. Thus whatever is due to everyone must be given to him.

Unto This Last

  1. The Roots of Honour
  2. The Veins of Wealth
  3. Qui Judicatis Terram
  4. Ad Valorem

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