I enjoy reading books that expand my perspective, but this is one of the rare books that has truly altered it, or at least given me notice that alteration is necessary.
What served me best in reading this book was the fact that it was one of only two I brought for a very long trip. This meant that I had plenty of time and less reason to be distracted. With this time I was able to pace myself through a somewhat slow beginning, tolerate the re-telling of some stories with which I was already familiar, and, by the end of Part 1, be willing to write a 4-star review of how amazing it was that Lewis Hyde could have so presciently defined the logic and sensibilities of the free software and free culture movements that would blossom within ten years of the book being published. His telling of the real establishment of capitalism--that begin with Martin Luther rather than Adam Smith, and the concomitant destruction of charitable customs in Western nations provide a far more cogent explanation of both the moral bankruptcy and the actual bankruptcy of globalism than I've heard in more than one hundred hours of NPR news stories. And his explanations are spot-on for what I am seeing as a person who is involved with, and invests in, community development and sustainability. Indeed, I think it would make especially good reading in faith communities that also have a social community mission.
Then Mr. Hyde lets the other shoe drop: "the gift" describes not only the cultural practices that made economies flourish under conditions beyond the abilities or cares of capitalism, but also the human practices that enable the "genius" of creativity to flourish. The depth of his insights are staggering, and in the end they recontextualized a good portion of my own liberal arts education.
I am delighted to have read it, and look forward to applying its lessons to everything I do going forward, starting with buying enough copies to begin giving them away...
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