New edition of The Social Meaning of Money, by Viviana Zelizer

A new edition of Viviana Zelizer’s award winning book is now available with Princeton University Press: The Social Meaning of Money: Pin Money, Paychecks, Poor Relief, and Other Currencies. The book includes a foreword by Nigel Dodd and a new afterword by the author.

Zelizer social meaning cover


A dollar is a dollar—or so most of us believe. Indeed, it is part of the ideology of our time that money is a single, impersonal instrument that impoverishes social life by reducing relations to cold, hard cash. After all, it’s just money. Or is it? Distinguished social scientist and prize-winning author Viviana Zelizer argues against this conventional wisdom. She shows how people have invented their own forms of currency, earmarking money in ways that baffle market theorists, incorporating funds into webs of friendship and family relations, and otherwise varying the process by which spending and saving takes place. Zelizer concentrates on domestic transactions, bestowals of gifts and charitable donations in order to show how individuals, families, governments, and businesses have all prescribed social meaning to money in ways previously unimagined.



“Interesting and informative. . . . Money is a medium of exchange. But that is only the beginning.”–John Kenneth Galbraith, New York Times Book Review

“Zelizer’s book is one of the richest and most thoughtful investigations of [money’s] weirdness, examining in detail how money works in the real world, how we try to manage and control it, why we freely give it away in some circumstances–think, for instance, of tipping and how money shapes the relationships we have with one another.”–James Surowiecki, GQ Magazine

“Zelizer has accomplished a rarity, writing a genuinely original book.”–Randall Collins, Society


“Zelizer has a genius for detecting hidden order in everyday practices. Gently but firmly she uses her discoveries to overturn widespread beliefs in the power of money to corrupt, standardize, and depersonalize social ties. Best of all, she writes of these complex matters with grace, lucidity, wit, and humanity.”–Charles Tilly, author of Credit and Blame


Viviana A. Zelizer is the Lloyd Cotsen ’50 Professor of Sociology at Princeton University. She is the author of The Purchase of Intimacy, Pricing the Priceless Child, Economic Lives and Morals and Markets

One thought on “New edition of The Social Meaning of Money, by Viviana Zelizer

  1. This is a great book! I have used it before in class and it is a hit with students. I recommend it!

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