Bringing Humanity into the Workforce

“I have read your paper with exhilaration… such a thing flung suddenly into half a million dull British heads… will do a great deal of good.”

Thomas Carlyle, commenting on John Ruskin’s 1860 work ‘Unto This Last’

In case you haven’t noticed, 8th February 2019 marks the bi-centenary of Ruskin’s birth. As Andrew Hill’s  new book ‘Ruskinland’ points out, it is probably time to relook at Ruskin’s views on work and business.

Celebrations and commemorations will largely focus on his art criticism but, like so many Victorians, Ruskin was something of a polymath, writing on everything from ornithology and botany to political economy and the nature of work.  In this latter area his thoughts seem to reflect the zeitgeist.  We might not buy in to all his ideas but here are just a few to consider:

For all this apparently benevolent talk, Ruskin did not regard himself as a socialist, writing “I was, and my father was before me, a violent Tory of the old school” and he was certainly not against making a profit.  He may not have said so, but I suspect he would recognise that encouraging humanity into the workforce drives performance and what Ruskin called a ‘sense of success’.


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