Over the past three decades, economic sociology has been revealing how culture shapes economic life even while economic facts affect social relationships. This work has transformed the field into a flourishing and increasingly influential discipline. No one has played a greater role in this development than Viviana Zelizer, one of the world’s leading sociologists. Economic Lives synthesizes and extends her most important work to date, demonstrating the full breadth and range of her field-defining contributions in a single volume for the first time.
Economic Lives shows how shared cultural understandings and interpersonal relations shape everyday economic activities. Far from being simple responses to narrow individual incentives and preferences, economic actions emerge, persist, and are transformed by our relations to others. Distilling three decades of research, the book offers a distinctive vision of economic activity that brings out the hidden meanings and social actions behind the supposedly impersonal worlds of production, consumption, and asset transfer. Economic Lives ranges broadly from life insurance marketing, corporate ethics, household budgets, and migrant remittances to caring labor, workplace romance, baby markets, and payments for sex. These examples demonstrate an alternative approach to explaining how we manage economic activity—as well as a different way of understanding why conventional economic theory has proved incapable of predicting or responding to recent economic crises.
Providing an important perspective on the recent past and possible futures of a growing field, Economic Lives promises to be widely read and discussed.
Viviana A. Zelizer is the Lloyd Cotsen ‘50 Professor of Sociology at Princeton University. She is the author of The Purchase of Intimacy, The Social Meaning of Money, Pricing the Priceless Child (all Princeton), and Morals and Markets: The Development of Life Insurance in the United States.
"Immensely interesting and thought-provoking—especially for academic collections and for fans of the Freakanomics series looking for meatier fare."—Library Journal
"Economic Lives reveals . . . Zelizer's brilliant craftsmanship in knitting together innovative narratives about the ceaseless interplay between money and social relations, means and meaning, objective and subjective, material and symbolic. . . . Her work still reigns supreme in the description and analysis of the careful economic strategies individuals anxiously deploy to find meaning and a moral ground."—Marion Fourcade, Sociological Forum
"Economic Lives is an outstanding collection by one of the most original thinkers in economic sociology. In addition to bringing together some of her most brilliant papers, Viviana Zelizer provides an integrative analysis of her work and how it relates to the thinking of others who want to understand the fundamental nature of the economy. I know of no one else who can so thoughtfully describe everything from the beginnings of the cultural turn in economic sociology to leading-edge interpretations of what is happening in capitalism today. No serious student of economic sociology will want to neglect this book."—Rakesh Khurana, Harvard Business School
"Behind GNP statistics, stock market figures, and profit-loss statements lies a seething tapestry of human social relations. In this exciting collection of her writings on the sociology of economic life, Viviana Zelizer brings this tapestry to life and in focus, stressing the tense synergy of calculation and emotion and the tacit but ever-changing boundaries between market exchange and human intimacy. Zelizer records the psychodynamics of moving boundaries and mutual redefinitions between the worlds of impersonal exchange, money, and wealth on the one hand, and the private worlds of love, friendship, child rearing, and caring on the other. A must-read for anyone interested in the mutual constitution of objective and subjective realities in both history and contemporary life."—Herbert Gintis, Santa Fe Institute and the Central European University
"No one has done more to change the way social scientists think about economic life than Viviana Zelizer. This definitive volume, which pulls together her central contributions, is the best introduction to the work of one of today's most influential scholars."—Donald MacKenzie, University of Edinburgh
"No one else does what Viviana Zelizer does, or in the way she does it. With attractively rigorous scholarship, she reveals hidden meanings in things we otherwise take for granted. Spanning Zelizer's career to date, Economic Lives is welcome for bringing key contributions together in one volume."—Ronald S. Burt, University of Chicago Booth School of Business
"This excellent, attractive, and very welcome collection contains some truly wonderful pieces."—Richard Swedberg, Cornell University