SAVILE HISTORY – ANDREW HILL on RUSKIN REVISITED: HOW THE IDEAS OF A VICTORIAN VISIONARY SHAPE OUR WORLD TODAY

Social inequality, excessive executive pay, a flawed economic orthodoxy, advancing automation, environmental disaster and meaningless work: the visionary thinking of John Ruskin offers solutions to these modern problems.

Ruskin’s appreciation of art and architecture, his extraordinary draughtsmanship and his insistence that to see and draw the world is the best way to understand it better, have new relevance in the age of YouTube and Instagram. 

His radical ideas about social reform remain relevant to how we run our lives, our governments, our museums, our galleries and our companies. Those ideas sowed the seeds of the modern welfare state, universal state education and healthcare free at the point of delivery. His acute appreciation of natural beauty underpinned the National Trust, while his sensitivity to environmental change, fuelled the modern green movement. His critique of free market economics, Unto This Last, has a claim to be one of the most influential political pamphlets ever written; it still provides lessons about how to deal with the causes and consequences of the 2008 financial crisis. 

Finally, his insight that meaningful and creative work was only possible if the workers were themselves happy and fulfilled provides a humane model that can and should now be applied in everything from car manufacture to software design, even as robots advance into the workplace. Hill argues that, in Ruskin’s bicentenary year, this Victorian visionary’s ideas should be revisited and revived.

Andrew Hill is an Associate Editor and Management Editor of the Financial Times. He writes a weekly column on business, strategy and leadership, as well as contributing longer features, videos and podcasts and appearing regularly at conferences and on panels.  He is author of Leadership in the Headlines (2016)

He is a trustee and chair of The Blueprint Trust, the charity behind Blueprint for Better Business, which supports and challenges business to be a force for good. He is also a trustee of The Ruskin Foundation, responsible for the UK’s largest archive of material relating John Ruskin.

Andrew is a member of the FT’s Editorial Board.

Chairman – Savilian Tim Halstead