unable to receive, contribute toward, and pass along the collective treasures

But where, on the other hand, the market alone rules, and particularly where its benefits derive from the conversion of gift property to commodities, the fruits of gift exchange are lost. At that point commerce becomes correctly associated with the fragmentation of community and the suppression of liveliness, fertility, and social feeling. For where we maintain no institutions of positive reciprocity, we find ourselves unable to participate in those ‘wider spirits’ I just spoke of — unable to enter gracefully into nature, unable to draw community out of the mass, and, finally, unable to receive, contribute toward, and pass along the collective treasures we refer to as culture and tradition.

Lewis Hyde, The Gift, p39-40

Got a proper start on Lewis Hyde’s The Gift last night, after a few earlier attempts aborted due to tiredness and lack of focus. It’s good, despite the sometimes dated references: I’m sure a lot of the anthropological stuff has been reassessed since the early Eighties, and the glancing yet seemingly approving mention in the footnotes to the introduction of Garret Hardin’s infamous “Tragedy of the Commons” definitely hasn’t aged well.

But the underlying argument shines through from the very first pages, and glows up in particular in the occasional lengthy and lyrical passages where Hyde clearly just leaned into the vibe of the whole thing. It’s a book whose argument clearly meant a lot to its author.

And it’s something of a shock to realise that not all books give that impression—not nearly all, in fact.



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