Зображення сторінки

sioned view of life: he no longer looked to a perfected state to order work and life in complete harmony; small, local, detailed experiment occupied him more, and his appeal was more addressed to individual well-wishers, and less to statesmen or wholesale economic reformers.

Yet ever and anon in the midst of his more detailed practical schemes, he returns to the larger ideal. The idea of an enduring and united commonwealth, a state in that meaning of the word which he dwells upon in “Sesame and Lilies,” “ without tremor, without quiver of balance, established and enthroned upon a foundation of eternal law, which nothing can alter or overthrow," 1 always had a powerful hold upon his imagination, and all schemes of partial co-operation to which he lent his voice may be regarded as purely provisional “concessa propter duritiem cordis.”

The schemes of social reform, which I have outlined chiefly in his own words, never took such shape as can rightly justify their submission to detailed criticism. They may rather be regarded as speculative experiments, in part the application of large political and economic ideals which underlay his criticism, by whittling them down to meet the broadly conceived conditions of actual life, in part the enlargement into wider social forms of certain practical experiments which he was engaged in trying upon a small scale on his own account.

In spite of those brilliant flashes of convincing realism which he was able to impart into all his proposals, it is easy to see that their author has far too keen a knowledge of the present possibilities of human nature to indulge any swift hopes of realisation. The note of

1 Sesame and Lilies, $ 52.

disappointment, often of despair, is sounded many times, and more frequently than ever in “ Fors.” Though progress moves in many of the directions which Mr. Ruskin's imagination foreshadowed, his ideal society, as he sorrowfully allows, must rank with Plato's, though with Plato he likewise insists that for the good man such ideals are practical.” “ In heaven there is laid up a pattern of such a city: and he who desires may behold it, and beholding, govern himself accordingly. But whether there really is, or will be, such an one, is of no importance to him, for he will act according to the laws of that city and no other.” 1

1 Republic, ix. 592.



§ 3.

§ 1. How far Mr. Ruskin is a Socialist. § 2. Acceptance of many

distinctive economic doctrines of Social Democracy. Limitations of his economic Socialism. § 4. Leanings to Christian Socialism. § 5. An enemy of Liberalism and Democracy. $ 6. Affinities with J. S. Mill and Mazzini. $ 7. The natural and inherent “slavery" of the masses. § 8. Reliance on the moral initiative of the classes. $ 9. Is Mr. Ruskin's policy of moral appeal efficacious ? § 10. The need of organic social action. § 11. Moralising the employer. § 12. Moralising the consumer. § 13. The individual solution proved to be untenable. $ 14. Irreverence not essential to Democracy. $ 15. Absolute equality not essential to Democracy. § 16. The rational interpretation of Democracy.

$1. What is Mr. Ruskin's proper place among Social Reformers? In attempting to answer this question, it will be most convenient to begin by asking another. In what sense is Mr. Ruskin a Socialist ? Having already collected much evidence upon this head, it is only necessary to focus it by a judgment which shall bear in mind the different grades of loose meaning attached to the term Socialism. Considered as a philosophic term, Socialism is best taken to imply an organic view of social life, which accords to society a unity not constituted of the mere addition of its individual members, but contained in a common end or purpose, which determines and imposes the activities of these individual

members. In this sense Mr. Ruskin is a pronounced Socialist, enforcing his theory by analogies constantly drawn from the conscious organic life of animals, and ignoring those points of defect or difference which some philosophic Socialists admit, in comparing the organised structure of political and industrial society with human life in the individual man.

But even in theoretic discussions Socialism commonly means more than a bare adhesion to some organic view of social life. It implies at least a tendency to favour increased social activity in politics and industry, either through the instrumentality of the state or by voluntary co-operation for common ends. Now Mr. Ruskin distinctly favours the largest substitution of public for private enterprise, and a public superintendence and control of the details of individual life by the state. “ Live openly” is not merely an ethical precept binding upon the individual good citizen, but a public interest to be enforced by public provision. Such freedom as is granted to individuals to hold and till land, to make and sell goods of any kind, proceeds from the positive, as distinct from the tacit, consent of society. Large sections of industrial work are to be directly ordered and managed by state officials. The guild system, though in some places treated as a voluntary co-operative movement, is in effect to be a public institution; and though provisional liberty is granted to buy and sell goods produced under free competitive conditions, this is evidently regarded as an imperfection which would disappear with the fuller growth of the sense of commonalty. In this general economic sense, as approving the

1 Time and Tide, $ 3.

[ocr errors]

increased ownership and control of industry by the state, Mr. Ruskin, then, will also rank as Socialist. But how far is his teaching to be identified with that of the movement commonly described as Socialist, and in particular with the large continental organisation which has assumed that name?

There are many close points of resemblance in social criticism. The general humanitarian revolt against the misery and the social injustice implied by poverty, the corrupting influences of luxury, and the base origin of riches has never been so eloquently voiced by any other “ agitator." His insistence that “large fortunes cannot honestly be made by the work of any one man's hands or head,”1 always implying the “discovery of some method of taxing the labor of others,” 2 his contemptuous repudiation of charity as a substitute for justice, his demand that property shall be set upon a sound basis both of origin and use, are agitating doctrines which Mr. Ruskin never shrinks from driving to their logical conclusions. The plainest and most fearless statement of the case is in a letter to the Pall Mall Gazette in 1873, which contains the words : « These are the facts. The laborious poor produce the means of life by their labour. Rich persons possess themselves by various expedients of a right to dispense these means of life,' and keeping as much means as they want of it for themselves, dispense the rest, usually only in return for more labour from the poor, expended in producing various delights for the rich dispenser.”

§ 2. But Mr. Ruskin comes even nearer to continental
1 Time and Tide, $ 81. 2 Munera Pulveris, § 139.
8 Fors, iii. 411, Letter lxx. 4 Arrows of the Chace, ii. 100.

« НазадПродовжити »