Saturday, May 05, 2007

Pg. 99: Viviana Zelizer's "The Purchase of Intimacy"

This weekend's feature at the Page 99 Test: Viviana Zelizer's The Purchase of Intimacy.

About the book, from the publisher:

In their personal lives, people consider it essential to separate economics and intimacy. We have, for example, a long-standing taboo against workplace romance, while we see marital love as different from prostitution because it is not a fundamentally financial exchange. In The Purchase of Intimacy, Viviana Zelizer mounts a provocative challenge to this view. Getting to the heart of one of life's greatest taboos, she shows how we all use economic activity to create, maintain, and renegotiate important ties -- especially intimate ties -- to other people.

In everyday life, we invest intense effort and worry to strike the right balance. For example, when a wife's income equals or surpasses her husband's, how much more time should the man devote to household chores or child care? Sometimes legal disputes arise. Should the surviving partner in a same-sex relationship have received compensation for a partner's death as a result of 9/11?

Through a host of compelling examples, Zelizer shows us why price is central to three key areas of intimacy: sexually tinged relations; health care by family members, friends, and professionals; and household economics. She draws both on research and materials ranging from reports on compensation to survivors of 9/11 victims to financial management Web sites and advice books for same-sex couples.

From the bedroom to the courtroom, The Purchase of Intimacy opens a fascinating new window on the inner workings of the economic processes that pervade our private lives.

Among the reviews and endorsements for the book:

"Are sociologists today the best economic scientists? On the evidence of Viviana Zelizer's striking book on the mix of the sacred and profane in our lives, it seems so."
--Deirdre McCloskey, The Times Higher Education Supplement

"The interactions of our private lives consist of subtle blends of acts of intimacy and economic exchange, which the legal system awkwardly deconstructs when things go wrong. This beautiful book will gently guide you through the many ironies of intimate exchange."
--Daniel Kahneman, Princeton University, and Nobel Laureate in Economic Sciences

"Do you think that the realm of money and the realm of intimacy are separate spheres? Viviana Zelizer will make you think again. A fascinating demonstration that romantic relationships are pervaded by transactions of multiple sorts -- and that we ignore those transactions at our peril."
--Cass Sunstein, author of

"Zelizer demolishes the idea that caring and commerce inhabit two separate and mutually exclusive realms. As she shows in a wide range of examples drawn from marriage, the sex trade, and the caring professions, love and money have always been intimately intertwined. A fascinating and even liberating book."
--Ann Crittenden, author of The Price of Motherhood and If You've Raised Kids, You Can Manage Anything

"Viviana Zelizer has long been known as the world's most astute, discerning, and original cultural analyst of economic processes. Here, she brings together the two streams of her work in a mighty river of a book. The Purchase of Intimacy will be read for years to come."
--Charles Tilly, Joseph L. Buttenweiser Professor of Social Science, Columbia University, author of Roads from Past to Future

Viviana Zelizer's other books include The Social Meaning of Money, Pricing the Priceless Child, and Morals and Markets.

The Page 99 Test: The Purchase of Intimacy.

--Marshal Zeringue