Victorian Critics of Democracy: Carlyle, Ruskin, Arnold, Stephen, Maine, Lecky

By Benjamin Evans Lippincott | Go to book overview

JOHN RUSKIN

I

IF CARLYLE was the chief critic of the social effects of capitalism, Ruskin next to Marx was the chief critic of its principles. Unlike Marx, he did not use Hegelian dialectic as a weapon of assault; he had no Marxist conception of history; his criticism was seldom historical but almost always analytical, moral, and psychological. Nor did he use, as Marx did, a theory of the class struggle, though he thought that the exploited might one day rise against the tyranny of their masters. For him, as for Marx, the labor theory of value was the base on which he rested his charge that capitalism was unjust; both insisted that capitalism exploited the worker and denied him the fruits of his labor. Where Marx supported this charge with a great wealth of historical fact, Ruskin supported it with a few simple analogies and numerous illustrations.

If Marx made a more convincing indictment of capitalism on the ground of the unfair distribution of reward, Ruskin was unequaled in showing the moral defects of capitalism in general. No one could match him in showing the materializing effect of the profit motive or the degrading effect of the assumption of self-interest. He declared that a system that made profit, not excellence of work, the chief incentive of production must encourage poor workmanship, foster greed, and generally degrade those who took part in the industrial process. And he pointed out that the emphasis on profit meant the worship of the "Goddess of Getting-On," and made dishonesty popular.

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Victorian Critics of Democracy: Carlyle, Ruskin, Arnold, Stephen, Maine, Lecky
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface vii
  • Contents ix
  • Introduction 1
  • Thomas Carlyle 6
  • John Ruskin 54
  • Matthew Arnold 93
  • James Fitzjames Stephen 134
  • Henry Maine 167
  • William Lecky 207
  • The Intellectual Protest 244
  • Index 265
  • Index 266
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