Princeton University Shield Princeton University

Viviana A. Zelizer

Department of Sociology
120 Wallace Hall
Princeton, NJ 08544

How Do Economic Activities Affect The Meaning Of Interpersonal Relations?

How do interpersonal connections enter into the production, distribution, consumption, and transfer of economic value? My work highlights situations in which the relationship between economic activity and personal life is changing or in dispute. I explore how Americans came to treat life insurance as morally acceptable and prudent in Morals and Markets, and how children came to be seen as emotionally central just as their economic contributions to family life declined in Pricing the Priceless Child. We like to think of money and emotion as separate realms, but in my most recent work, The Purchase of Intimacy, I argue that the two realms intertwine in the most fundamental ways. Our private worlds overflow with prices, exchanges, and forms of instrumental reasoning. Economic activity plays a key role in the way we express the value of those who are near and dear.

Selected Publications: 

(For links to publications, please visit

The Purchase of Intimacy, Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2005.

Economic Lives: How Culture Shapes the Economy. Princeton: Princeton University Press, forthcoming, 2010.

“Risky Exchanges.” In Michele Bratcher Goodwin, editor, Baby Markets: Money and the New Politics of Creating Families. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010, pp. 267-77.

“Caring Everywhere.” In Rhacel Parreñas and Eileen Boris and, editors, Intimate Labors: Cultures, Technologies, and the Politics of Care. Stanford University Press, 2010, pp. 267-279.

“Moralizing Consumption.” Journal of Consumer Culture 10 (July 2010): 287-291.

“Culture and Uncertainty.” In Craig Calhoun, editor, Robert K. Merton: Sociology of Science and Sociology as Science. New York: Columbia University Press, 2010