Gandhi and Ruskin

Reflections from Phoenix Settlement in South Africa

  • Teresa Joseph Centre for Gandhian Studies
Keywords: Gandhi, Ruskin, Phoenix Settlement, Sarvodaya, Gandhian economics


John Ruskin is often referred to as the father of Gandhian economic
thought. While the extent of his influence on Mahatma Gandhi has been
a matter of debate, Gandhi himself has acknowledged his debt to Ruskin
on various occasions. Ruskin’s book Unto This Last was an essential reading
for the inmates of Gandhi’s ashrams and Gandhi paraphrased and translated
it into Gujarati entitling it Sarvodaya. Inspired by the book, he established
the Phoenix Settlement in South Africa to put Ruskin’s ideals into practice.
This was the first of Gandhi’s experiments which laid the foundation for
the ashrams that he established later in life, both in South Africa and in
India. Given the diverse socio-economic problems confronting the world
today, be it at the individual, societal, state or international level, there is a
need to understand the precepts of Ruskin’s philosophy of Unto This
Last and the extent of its influence on Mahatma Gandhi, as well as the
manner in which Gandhi attempted to put these ideals into practice. This
critical juncture in history calls for a rediscovery of Gandhi’s views on moral
economics or the inseparability of economics from ethics and the need to
draw lessons from the experiments of the Phoenix Settlement.

Author Biography

Teresa Joseph, Centre for Gandhian Studies

Centre for Gandhian Studies, Alphonsa College, Pala,