To John Ruskin’s eye, the economists of his time (John Stuart Mill, e.g.) had a reductive understanding of human nature. According to the economists, “The social affections . . . are accidental and disturbing elements in human nature; but avarice and the desire for progress are constant elements. Let us eliminate the inconstants, and, considering the human being merely as a covetous machine, examine by what laws of labour, purchase, and sale, the greatest accumulative result in wealth is attainable. Those laws once determined, it will be for each individual afterwards to introduce as much of the disturbing affectionate element as he chooses, and to determine for himself the result on the new conditions supposed” (quoted in Bruni and Zamagni, Civil Economy, 44).
As Bruni and Zamagni put it, workers aren’t affected only by carrot/stick incentives. Ruskin’s anthropology is more realistic: “honour and virtue can be as important as motivaters in ordinary economic settings, including factories” (44).