Unto This Last
Unto This Last is an essay and book on economy by John Ruskin, first published between August and December 1860 in the monthly journal Cornhill Magazine in four articles. Ruskin says himself that the articles were "very violently criticized", forcing the publisher to stop its publication after four months. Subscribers sent protest letters, but Ruskin countered the attack and published the four articles in a book in May 1862. The book greatly influenced the nonviolent activist Mohandas Gandhi.
The title is a quotation from the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard:
I will give unto this last, even as unto thee. Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good? So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen.
The "last" are the eleventh hour labourers, who are paid as if they had worked the entire day. Rather than discuss the contemporary religious interpretation of the parable, whereby the eleventh hour labourers would be death-bed converts, or the peoples of the world who come late to religion, Ruskin looks at the social and economic implications, discussing issues such as who should receive a living wage. This essay is very critical of capitalist economists of the 18th and 19th centuries. In this sense, Ruskin is a precursor of social economy. Because the essay also attacks the destructive effects of industrialism upon the natural world, some historians have seen it as anticipating the Green movement.
The essay begins with the following verses, taken from Matthew 20:13 and Zechariah 11:12 respectively (in the King James Version):
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