The Purchase of Intimacy
Viviana A. Zelizer
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.
Viviana A. Zelizer is Lloyd Cotsen '50 Professor of Sociology at Princeton University. Her previous books include The Social Meaning of Money and Pricing the Priceless Child (both Princeton) and Morals and Markets.