Friday, February 06, 2009

Margaret Atwood on "The Gift"

“By the pressures of the market economy we live in, [Hyde] says, we’ve been fooled into believing that there is only one way in which things are exchanged: through money transactions, or buying and selling. Yet on some level we know there’s another economy at work in human societies: the gift economy, which has quite different rules and consequences. It’s the relation between the two economies that The Gift explores…. Money transactions create no bonds of love or gratitude, and imply no obligations. Gifts, on the other hand, are reciprocal, and also emotionally loaded: market exchanges move through the bank account, gifts through the heart. Where the gift circulates, spiritual life flourishes. All societies exist in both economies, says Hyde, but each tends to value one economy over the other. Our own society has overemphasized the market and denied the gift, and the result is stagnant wealth on the one hand and spiritual death and material poverty on the other. The artist belongs primarily to the gift economy; without that element of creation which arrives uncommanded and cannot be bought, the work is unlikely to be alive. The Gift is the best book I know of for the aspiring young, for talented but unacknowledged creators, or even for those who have achieved material success and are worried that this means they’ve sold out. It gets at the core of their dilemma: how to maintain yourself alive in the world of money, when the essential part of what you do cannot be bought or sold."

Margaret Atwood

Lest we forget.