Zelizer, Viviana A. 1946–
Zelizer, Viviana A. 1946–
Born January 19, 1946, in Buenos Aires, Argentina; immigrated to United States, 1967, naturalized citizen, 1976; daughter of Julio S. (a lawyer) and Rosa Rotman; married Gerald Zelizer (a rabbi), February 15, 1967; children: Julian. Education: Rutgers University, B.A., 1971; Columbia University, M.A. and M.Phil., both 1974, Ph.D., 1977.
Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ, assistant professor of sociology, 1976-78; Columbia University, Barnard College, New York, NY, assistant professor, 1978-82, associate professor, 1982-85, professor of sociology, 1985-88; Princeton University, Princeton, NJ, professor, 1988-2002, Lloyd Cotsen '50 Professor of Sociology, 2002—. Paris School of Economics, member of Scientific Council.
American Sociological Association, Eastern Sociological Association, Phi Beta Kappa.
Rockefeller Foundation fellow in humanities, 1980-81; Elizur Wright Award from American Risk and Insurance Association, 1985, for Morals and Markets: The Development of Life Insurance in the United States; C. Wright Mills Award from the Society for the Study of Social Problems, 1985, for Pricing the Priceless Child: The Changing Social Value of Children; Tuck Fund Award, Princeton University, 1990; Guggenheim fellow; National Endowment for the Humanities fellow.
Morals and Markets: The Development of Life Insurance in the United States, Columbia University Press (New York, NY), 1979.
Pricing the Priceless Child: The Changing Social Value of Children, Basic Books, (New York, NY), 1985.
The Social Meaning of Money: Pin Money, Paychecks, Poor Relief, and Other Currencies, Basic Books (New York, NY), 1994.
The Purchase of Intimacy, Princeton University Press (Princeton, NJ), 2005.
Contributor to books on economics and sociology, including The New Economic Sociology: Developments in an Emerging Field, Russell Sage Foundation (New York, NY), 2002; The Economic Sociology of Capitalism, Princeton University Press (Princeton, NJ), 2005; The Handbook of Economic Sociology, 2nd edition, 2005; Studies in Modern Childhood: Society, Agency, and Culture, Palgrave (London, England), 2005; and The Psychology of Learning and Motivation, Elsevier (San Diego, CA), 2006. Contributor to blogs, including five essays for Credit Slips: A Discussion on Credit and Bankruptcy, 2006.
Contributor to sociology and business journals, including the Journal for Business, Economics, and Ethics, American Behavioral Scientist, American Economic Review Papers and Proceedings, American Journal of Sociology, Childhood, Contexts, Law and Social Inquiry, Sociological Forum, and Terrain.
According to Neil Postman in the Washington Post Book World, Viviana A. Zelizer's book Pricing the Priceless Child: The Changing Social Value of Children is "provocative and significant … because of her unusual perspective." The author has compared the economic value of the child in the nineteenth century to the economic uselessness of today's children, coupled with their enormous emotional value in society. Zelizer has provided a chronology of the changes that occurred between 1870—when children were expected to contribute to the family income and build moral character at the same time—and 1930—when parents began to insist that children make no economic contribution to family life. According to the author, when children were elevated to the level of sacred ornaments, they lost all economic control of their lives; Zelizer would like to reverse this trend. Postman found her historical account fascinating; he praised her conclusion as a "wide-ranging and deeply informed discussion of the different positions now being taken on the future of childhood."
In The Social Meaning of Money: Pin Money, Paychecks, Poor Relief, and Other Currencies, which Society contributor Randall Collins hailed as a "genuinely original book," Zelizer challenges the traditional view that money is a uniform and freely exchangeable medium. As Zelizer explained in an interview with Radio Australia, for the past century "we've assumed … that there are two basic truths about money. First, that money is strictly a matter of rational calculation and second, that money depersonalizes all actions…. However, in fact, if you look at people's practices and see how money works in social life, you see people transforming money rather than being transformed by it." Zelizer shows in her book that people make many distinctions about types and uses of money. She examines three general case studies: the uses of money within the family; the uses of money as gifts; and the uses of money, through charity and public assistance, to benefit the poor. Her case studies show how people differentiate among various types of money and use it for particular purposes.
Within the family, for example, Zelizer maintains that money is treated differently depending upon who earns it. In past centuries, wives often earned little, if any, income; their power over the household economy was usually limited to small purchases for daily necessities, while the husband's economic power was much broader. But even today, as Zelizer told the Radio Australia interviewer, "money is very carefully differentiated and segregated, so that the money earned by the wife is treated very differently … than money earned by the husband or money earned by the child. It's often used for very different kinds of expenses. People care very deeply about those distinctions." Other examples of this type of earmarking include money won in the lottery or stolen money. Such funds, Zelizer argues, are treated very differently from earnings or inherited money. Indeed, various forms of currency—including tips, gift certificates, Christmas club savings plans, and food stamps—have been invented to facilitate the desire to earmark specific funds for specific purposes.
The Social Meaning of Money draws on a wide range of sources, including documents from court cases as well as etiquette books and women's magazines, immigrants' memoirs, novels and plays, and advertisements to support the author's thesis. Much of the book concerns the economic patterns that have shaped charitable giving and welfare benefits. Zelizer describes how this pattern shifted in the United States from payments in cash to, after the 1830s, support in kind—supplies of necessities such as food, clothing, and fuel. This shift resulted from the perception that the poor did not use cash payments in appropriate ways. Welfare donors worried that recipients would use cash for alcohol, fancy clothing or furniture, or entertainment. Of particular concern was the habit, among many recent European immigrants, of using cash to buy burial insurance so that they could be given private funerals instead of being buried as paupers. As Zelizer shows, social workers objected to this practice not only because they considered it a luxury, but also because these private funerals tended to encourage big wakes at which mourners drank excessively. As Collins observed in Society: "Today's war against drugs, premarital sex, and other social pleasures of welfare recipients is still the imposition of one class's standards of the proper balance between utilitarian and moral economies upon the class subject to public charity and regulation."
In the 1920s, welfare policy shifted back to cash payments, in the belief that cash would give poor families the chance to learn how to make appropriate purchases. Collins noted: "In general, then as now, the poor were expected to treat finances in an entirely utilitarian fashion and were not allowed to participate in a moral and symbolic economy such as that unconsciously practiced by the respectable middle class." After the 1940s, however, welfare policy returned increasingly to the idea of in-kind payments, such as food stamps. Despite restrictions on their use, though, food stamps are often bartered in ways that allow recipients to exercise more choice about personal expenditures.
Writing in the Journal of Social History, Mark J. Stern found The Social Meaning of Money a "study of historical and social theoretical importance" that "breaks new ground in exploring the role of money in redefining the nature of public and especially private social relations during the social transformations of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries." Describing The Social Meaning of Money as a "highly commendable and important" work, Review of Social Economy reviewer Wilfred Dolfsma wrote that reading the book "is a delight."
Zelizer again challenges conventional thinking in The Purchase of Intimacy, in which she argues that, contrary to accepted belief, the exchange of money does not necessarily strip participants of any intimacy nor does intimacy necessarily make financial transactions corrupt. This thesis, according to New York Times Book Review contributor Richard A. Epstein, is a "straightforward but powerful point": that people handle their money in complex ways that belie the perceived dichotomy between intimate relationships and market relationships. As Zelizer shows, the relationship between husband and wife involves money, but is not merely an economic exchange; similarly, many other relationships that involve economic transactions—such as employer-employee, doctor-patient, and professional-client—include some degree of emotional dynamics. In Epstein's view, Zelizer's use of the term "intimacy" is too inclusive, making her analysis more about general purchasing patterns than about specific ways of purchasing intimacy. Writing in the Women's Review of Books, Barbara R. Bergmann concluded that The Purchase of Intimacy "explores a sexy and interesting topic, and it is good to have these economic exchanges between couples brought to our attention."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
American Historical Review, June, 1980, review of Morals and Markets: The Development of Life Insurance in the United States, p. 722; December, 1986, Miriam Z. Langsam, review of Pricing the Priceless Child: The Changing Social Value of Children, p. 1261.
American Journal of Sociology, July 1, 1980, review of Morals and Markets, p. 220; September, 1995, Debra Friedman, review of The Social Meaning of Money: Pin Money, Paychecks, Poor Relief, and Other Currencies, p. 516.
Business History Review, autumn, 1980, review of Morals and Markets, p. 434.
Business Library Review Annual, 1995, review of The Social Meaning of Money, p. 94.
Canadian Journal of Sociology, fall, 1999, review of The Social Meaning of Money; fall, 2000, review of The Social Meaning of Money.
Choice, January 1, 1980, review of Morals and Markets, p. 1485; November 1, 1985, review of Pricing the Priceless Child, p. 509; February 1, 1988, review of Pricing the Priceless Child, p. 872; November, 1994, T.H. Koenig, review of The Social Meaning of Money, p. 544.
Christian Century, March 26, 1980, Burton J. Bledstein, review of Morals and Markets, p. 354.
Chronicle of Higher Education, June 8, 1994, review of The Social Meaning of Money, p. 10.
Contemporary Sociology, November 1, 1985, review of Pricing the Priceless Child, p. 695; May, 1995, Julie A. Nelson, review of The Social Meaning of Money, p. 382.
Economic Books: Current Selections, September 1, 1984, review of Morals and Markets, p. 88.
Economy and Society, August, 2000, "Markets and Money in Social Theory: What Role for Economics?," p. 357.
Educational Studies, summer, 1986, review of Pricing the Priceless Child, p. 311.
Ethics, April, 1981, Theodore R. Marmor, review of Morals and Markets, p. 535.
Harvard Journal on Legislation, spring, 1980, Allen Early, review of Morals and Markets.
Journal of American History, March, 1981, review of Morals and Markets, p. 938; December, 1985, David Nasaw, review of Pricing the Priceless Child, p. 709.
Journal of Economic History, June 1, 1980, review of Morals and Markets, p. 441; December 1, 1985, review of Pricing the Priceless Child, p. 1015.
Journal of Economic Literature, June, 1998, review of The Social Meaning of Money, p. 1070.
Journal of Education Annual, 1986, review of Pricing the Priceless Child, p. 98.
Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law, spring, 1987, Martha Minow, review of Pricing the Priceless Child.
Journal of Interdisciplinary History, fall, 1987, Joseph F. Kett, review of Pricing the Priceless Child, p. 373.
Journal of Social History, winter, 1986, review of Pricing the Priceless Child, p. 398; summer, 1996, Mark J. Stern, review of The Social Meaning of Money.
Kirkus Reviews, April 15, 1985, review of Pricing the Priceless Child, p. 369; April 15, 1994, review of The Social Meaning of Money, p. 546.
Kliatt, September 1, 1995, review of The Social Meaning of Money, p. 37.
Law and Social Inquiry, summer, 2000, Viviana A. Zelizer, review of The Purchase of Intimacy.
Law & Society Review Annual, 1988, Herbert Jacob, review of Pricing the Priceless Child, pp. 745-751.
Library Journal, May 1, 1985, Robin B. Devin, review of Pricing the Priceless Child, p. 72; June 1, 1994, Richard Drezen, review of The Social Meaning of Money, p. 128.
New York Times Book Review, June 26, 1994, "The Social Meaning of Money," p. 12; September 18, 2005, Richard A. Epstein, "For Love or Money," p. 23.
Political Science Quarterly, summer, 1980, review of Morals and Markets, p. 341.
Psychology Today, August, 1985, Wendy Kaminer, review of Pricing the Priceless Child, p. 74.
Publishers Weekly, April 5, 1985, review of Pricing the Priceless Child, p. 58; May 16, 1994, review of The Social Meaning of Money, p. 58.
Reason, December, 2005, Kerry Howley, "Intimate Revelations," p. 15.
Review of Social Economy, June, 1999, Wilfred Dolfsma, review of The Social Meaning of Money, p. 247.
Reviews in American History, March 1, 1986, review of Pricing the Priceless Child, p. 50.
Science & Society, spring, 1999, Amy Pratt, review of The Social Meaning of Money.
Social Forces, December 1, 1980, review of Morals and Markets, p. 938.
Society, November 1, 1995, Randall Collins, review of The Social Meaning of Money, p. 72.
Sociology, March 1, 1980, review of Morals and Markets, p. 65; November, 1998, Stephen P. Sinclair, review of The Social Meaning of Money, p. 899.
Teachers College Record, winter, 1986, review of Pricing the Priceless Child, p. 281.
Times Higher Education Supplement, Deirdre McCloskey, October 14, 2005, "Cupid Is No Stranger to Mammon," p. 24.
Times Literary Supplement, April 7, 2006, Catherine Hakim, "Family Money," p. 12.
U.S. News & World Report, June 20, 1994, Viva Hardigg, "A Buck Is Not a Buck; Sociologist Viviana Zelizer Sees Meaning in How People Handle Money, Whether It's Embezzling It, Wagering It or Squirreling It Away," p. 70.
Washington Monthly, April, 1985, review of Pricing the Priceless Child, p. 58.
Washington Post, June 9, 1985, Neil Postman, review of Pricing the Priceless Child, p. 4.
Women's Review of Books, November 1, 2006, Barbara R. Bergmann, "On Wives and Prostitutes," p. 32.
Women's Rights Law Reporter, March 22, 2007, Britta Gilmore, review of The Purchase of Intimacy, p. 181.
Yale Review, April, 1995, James Tobin, review of The Social Meaning of Money, p. 125.
Huffington Post,http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ (November 11, 2007), review of The Purchase of Intimacy.
Princeton University Web site,http://sociology.princeton.edu/ (November 11, 2007), Viviana A. Zelizer faculty profile.
Radio Australia Web site,http://abc.net.au/ (November 11, 2007), interview with Viviana A. Zelizer.