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John Ruskin and the Ethics of Consumption

David M. Craig

BUY Cloth · 432 pp. · 6.125 × 9.25 · ISBN 9780813925585 · $65.00 · Oct 2006

The first book on the Victorian critic and public intellectual John Ruskin by a scholar of religion and ethics, this work recovers both Ruskin's engaged critique of economic life and his public practice of moral imagination. With its reading of Ruskin as an innovative contributor to a tradition of ethics concerned with character, culture, and community, this book recasts established interpretations of Ruskin's place in nineteenth-century literature and aesthetics, challenges nostalgic diagnoses of the supposed historical loss of virtue ethics, and demonstrates the limitations of any politics that eschews common purpose as vital to individual agency and social welfare. Although Ruskin's moralistic efforts did not always allow for democratic individuality, equality, and contestation, his eclecticism, Craig argues, helps to correct these problems. Further, Ruskin's interdisciplinary explorations of beauty, work, nature, religion, politics, and economic value reveal the ways in which his insights into the practical connections between aesthetics and ethics, and culture and character, might be applied to today’s debates about liberal modernity today. With the triumph of global capitalism, and the near-silence of any opposing voice, Ruskin’s model of an engaged reading of culture and his public practice of moral imagination deserve renewed attention. This book provides students in religion, politics, and social theory with a timely reintroduction to this timeless figure.


"David Craig’s great book on the perennial wisdom of John Ruskin reignites a much-needed dialogue between this sad genius and twenty-first-century cultural critics. This is a Ruskin for—and against—our time!—Cornell West, Princeton University"Craig has written a really wonderful book, certainly one of the best I’ve read on Ruskin in a long time and clearly the finest on the sage’s political economy.... Craig’s should be the dominant book for Ruskinians for some time to come. His comparisons of Ruskin and Marx, which demonstrate how the two men’s strengths and shortcomings illuminate each other, strike me as a major accomplishment.

George P. LandowBrown University, author of The Aesthetic and Critical Theories of John Ruskin

About the Author(s): 

David M. Craig is Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.

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