Naves and Nukes: John Ruskin as “Augustinian” Social Theorist?

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John Milbank appropriates John Ruskin as part of his “Augustinian” tradition. Milbank's selective reading, however, omits Ruskin's fixed hierarchies as well as his acknowledgment of conflict in economic life. Neither of these ideas fits the social aesthetics of harmony and difference that Milbank claims is unique to Christian theology. While Milbank's strictly theoretical portrait of theology gains critical force from Ruskin's robust account of social practices and just exchange, Milbank lacks effective historical and institutional responses to the problems in Ruskin's corpus. This deficiency undermines Milbank's dichotomy between theology and secular reason.

Keywords: John Ruskin; Milbank; aesthetics; capitalism; charity; secular reason; social practices

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: June 1, 2004

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