Lewis Hyde – The Gift


‘One man’s gift.’ they say, ‘must not be another man’s capital.’

S. 4

‘If money goes, money comes. If money stays, death comes.’

S. 22

‘Let us borrow empty vessels.’ The gift finds that man attractive who stands with an empty bowl he does not own.

S. 23f

In European folk tales the beggar often turns out to be Wotan.

S. 24

Virtue rests in publicly disposing of wealth, not in its mere acquisition and accumulation.

S. 36

Capitalism is the ideology that asks that we remove surplus wealth from circulation and lay it aside to produce more wealth. To move away from capitalism is not to change the form of ownership from the few to the many, but to cease turning so much surplus into capital, that is, to treat most increase as a gift. It is quite possible to have the state own everything and still convert all gifts to capital, as Stalin demonstrated. When he decided in favor of the ‘production mode’ – an intensive investment in capital goods – he acted as a capitalist, the locus of ownership having nothing to do with it.

S. 38

God’s initial gift to man is life itself, and those who feel gratitude for this gift reciprocate by abandoning attachment to worldly things, that is, by directing their lives back toward God.

S. 55

The bonds established by a gift can maintain old identity and limit our freedom of motion.

S. 69

It seems no misnomer that we have called those nations known for their commodities ‘the free world.’ The phrase doesn’t seem to refer to political freedoms; it indicates that the dominant form of exchange in these lands does not bind the individual in any way.

S. 69

The freedom of the free world tends toward the perfect freedom of strangers.

S. 70

‘The gift not yet repaid debases the man who accepts it.’ Marcel Mauss had written.

S. 71

Folk wisdom similarly advises silence before evil. Conversation is a commerce, and when we give speech we become a part of what we speak with.

S. 75

‘Female’ tasks – social work and soul work – cannot be undertaken on a pure cost-benefit basis because their products are not commodities.

S. 108

In a modern, capitalist nation, to labor with gifts (and to treat them as gifts, rather than exploit them) remams a mark of the lemale gender.

S. 110

the history of the usury debate is the history of our attempts to fix the radius of the circle. The Christians extended the radius infinitely under the call for a universal brotherhood. For fifteen centuries people tried to work within that assumption. The Reformation reversed it and began to shorten the radius again, bringing it, by the time of Calvin, into the heart of each private soul.

S. 118

This is what you shall do: Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy …, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people …, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families … dismiss whatever insults your own soul, and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body …

S. 227, Whitman

Mr Johnston … was later to say, ‘Advertising is not necessary to sell the product, because it’s a powerful product, but advertising is necessary to establish it as a permanent part of the children’s culture.’

S. 240

the usurer finds it in his interest to blur the distinction between the commodity mode and the gift mode so that the former may profit by the energy of the latter. In short, he converts erotic energy into money, goodwill into profit, worth into value.

S. 241

He’s in the ‘juice trade,’ say the crooks in Chicago. He turns the juice of life (fantasy and affection in this case) into money.

S. 241

It is difficult to speak directly of Ezra Pound’s economic ideas. He was a man who rarely uttered a simple ‘2 + 2 = 4.’ He would say, instead, ‘2 + 2 = 4. as anyone can see who isn’t a ninny completely ballywhoed by the gombeen-men and hyper-kikes who CHOKE UP the maze of Jew-governed radio trans-missions.’ The specifics of his argument emerge with a tag line, a challenge or a baiting remark, and we must speak of both – both the substance and the style – if we are to speak at all.

S. 247

Karl Marx once wrote that ‘Logic is the money of mind…: logic is alienated thinking and therefore thinking which abstracts from nature and from real man.’

S. 268