"Every culture offers its citizens an image of what it is to be a man or woman of substance. There have been times and places in which a person came into his or her social being through the dispersal of his gifts, the “big man” or “big woman” being that one through whom the most gifts flowed. The mythology of a market society reverses the picture: getting rather than giving is the mark of a substantial person, and the hero is “self-possessed,” “self-made." So long as these assumptions rule, a disquieting sense of triviality, of worthlessness even, will nag the man or woman who labors in the service of a gift and whose products are not adequately described as commodities. Where we reckon our substance by our acquisitions, the gifts of the gifted man are powerless to make him substantial."
Man, Lewis Hyde's The Gift is really amazing. I had read it before I got my kindle, but am now re-reading it (I feel like a broken record with this) and just processing it on a new level.
Funny because when I was reading "E Unibus Pluram" again earlier this summer, every few sentences, I would think, "And that's why I have to get out of this country, head somewhere rural and just do my own thing..." and now, that's exactly what I think every few sentences reading Lewis Hyde.
I think a lot about what America values...it's certainly not art! And going back to the public domain thing I've been discussing in several other posts-- the sheet music/NYMF one and the one about the Tolstoy film, The Last Station, Lewis Hyde makes total sense to me. As a principal, I actually do think art is a gift that belongs to the masses. But I also think artists need the time, focus, and relative security in order to make art. And if you're working 50 hours a week at a day job so you can pay rent, it doesn't really leave room to create on a significant level. So someone needs to respect art enough (the way that it does make life better-- it does) and the people who make it enough to help them keep on creating.
When countries and rich families valued art, not as a commodity necessarily, but as a part of fulfillment, we had amazing art. I'm not fully landed on one solution or another, but I am fully consumed by the questions and ideas raised in The Gift. It's an amazing perspective slant. (I'm also looking forward to Hyde's newest book, Common as Air, which is out August 17th. If you haven't read The Gift, check it out. Even if you're not artsy, it says some amazing things about our psychology regarding gifts vs capital.