One of the problems with the idea of a gift is that it typically sets in motion an economy of exchange that, unintended by the giver and receiver, can set up a sense of inequality and debit that is not easily overcome. We’ve all been in this social situation before: someone at work gives you a holiday present, unexpectedly, with the sincerest desire to be kind and nice. Yet, you feel indebted, even embarrassed perhaps, for not having something ready at hand to give in return. This exchange sets up an imbalance that denies the possibility of a true gift, for a true gift is freely given and received without there being established such pressure for reciprocation, without there arising a sense of self-gratification or embarrassment, without the possibility of something ever given in return.
The French philosopher Jacques Derrida was, along with many other topics, deeply concerned about the
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