Viviana A. Zelizer

Lloyd Cotsen ‘50 Professor of Sociology
Office Phone
120 Wallace Hall

Viviana A. Zelizer is Lloyd Cotsen ‘50 Professor of Sociology at Princeton University. She has published books on the development of life insurance, the changing value of children, the place of money in social life and the economics of intimacy. She has also studied topics ranging from economic ethics to consumption practices. A collection of her essays appears in Economic Lives: How Culture Shapes the Economy. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2010. In 2017 Princeton University Press published a new edition of her book The Social Meaning of Money, with a preface by Nigel Dodd and an afterword by Zelizer and Columbia University Press published a new edition of Morals and Markets: The Development of Life Insurance in the United States, with a preface by Kieran Healy.  Her most recent book is Money Talks: Explaining How Money Really Works (Princeton University Press, 2017) co-edited with Nina Bandelj and Frederick Wherry. 

Focusing on Princeton undergraduates and in collaboration with Lauren Gaydosh, she is currently working on a study of college students’ cross-class economic transactions.

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 intimacy as separate domains and worry that money turns our personal life into a calculating market. In The Social Meaning of Money and The Purchase of Intimacy, I challenge those views  showing how all of us use money and more generally, economic activity to create, maintain, and renegotiate important intimate ties without necessarily damaging them. Far from corrupting intimacy, people regularly sustain their intimate ties with economic transactions.