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The market now laps onto so many shores that it can be odd to remember the horror provoked by the first wave of Reaganomics. Lewis Hyde’s The Gift: How the Creative Spirit Transforms the World, published for the first time in 1983, was one of many efforts of that time that looked for non-market alternatives. The book became a word-of-mouth success, and was finally published in the UK this year in paperback. This made it eligible for the Prospect Reading Group’s November meeting.

Hyde, a professor of creative writing in the US, argues that in western society the balance between…

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