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The Purchase of Intimacy
Viviana A. Zelizer

Paperback | 2007 | $35.00 | £27.95 | ISBN: 9780691130637
368 pp. | 6 x 9 1/4 | 2 tables.
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eBook | ISBN: 9781400826759 |
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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.


"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

"Zelizer's book does an excellent job in demystifying the intertwining of economic activity and intimacy."--Xiaoshuo Hou, Theory and Society

"The theoretical importance of this book cannot be overstated, and it cannot fail to have a lasting impact on our understanding of a variety of intimate relationships, of the circulation of money, of care, of interest, and mostly of their inextricable intertwining. . . . [T]his book is a major contribution to sociology and . . . it provides a very significant challenge to the dichotomies on which sociology rests. The tight elegance of its prose and style will make it a joy to the undergraduate student, while the scope, ambition, and originality of its argument will make it indispensable to scholars."--Eva Illouz, American Journal of Sociology

"Zelizer offers a perspective that focuses attention on incomplete commensurability, an essential task where markets and supposedly non market realms intersect. In doing so, Zelizer's approach gives judges, academics, lawyers, and lay people a vantage point on markets and intimacy that reflects how people actually live their lives."--Martha M. Ertman, Law & Social Inquiry


"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

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Table of Contents:

Acknowledgments ix
Prologue 1
Chapter 1: Encounters of Intimacy and Economy 7
Chapter 2: Intimacy in Law 47
Chapter 3: Coupling 94
Chapter 4: Caring Relations 158
Chapter 5: Household Commerce 209
Chapter 6: Intimate Revelations 287
References 309
Index 347

This book has been translated into:

  • Portuguese (Brazil)

Other Princeton books authored or coauthored by Viviana A. Zelizer:

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