The Gift: Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World - Part I, Chapter 7: “Usury: A History of Gift Exchange” Summary & Analysis

Lewis Hyde
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Summary

This final chapter of Part One outlines a history of the concept of usury and its effect on gift exchange and gift-giving economies. Hyde begins by noting that usury’s meaning has shifted significantly over time. Initially it referred to any interest whatsoever charged on loan. The modern notion of usury as a form of illegal or excessive interest emerged during the Protestant Reformation, a historical event that Hyde believes has had a major influence on the theory of the gift. Drawing from the work of Marcel Mauss once again, Hyde suggests that “ancient usury” is very close to the sort of increase the gift accumulates as it is passed along and consumed (144). However, the term no longer refers to this increase. When it initially emerges in discourse, usury is already separate and distinct from the...

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