The Purchase of Intimacy
This book took ten years to mature. During that time, I found myself increasingly involved in the emerging field of economic sociology. Whether we have agreed or disagreed, I have learned a great deal from dialogue with colleagues in that field as well as in economics and law. I have built many of the lessons I have learned into the book. Despite nineteenth-century origins with such greats as Karl Marx, Georg Simmel, and Max Weber, more recently changes in economic sociology have emerged from an uneven dialogue between sociology and economics. Economic sociologists have characteristically sought to criticize, extend, improve, or contextualize economists’ own analyses of economic behavior. My own approach has been somewhat different. While dealing cordially and respectfully with my colleagues in economics, I have sought—in company with a number of other scholars—to analyze the interpersonal processes that actually go into what economists usually abstract into production, consumption, distribution, and transfer of assets.
My writings on economic sociology and my teaching of the subject at Princeton University have both reinforced my conviction that a distinct program of theory and research awaits those who are willing to work outside the shadow of neoclassical economics. To my agreeable surprise, this has meant that a number of innovative currents in contemporary economics—for example, behavioral economics, institutional economics, and feminist economics—are arriving at complementary definitions of the problems to be analyzed. The book draws repeatedly on contributions from these innovative fields.
While preparing this book, I have accumulated a great debt to American legal scholars. They have been surprisingly welcoming to a non-lawyer who has repeatedly called on them for information and advice. My helpful informants and advisers include Ariela Dubler, Hendrik Hartog, Barbara Hauser, Marjorie Kornhauser, Mark Momjian, Claire Priest, Carol Sanger, Reva Siegel, Rebecca Tush – net, Joan Williams, and John Witt. Dirk Hartog scrutinized the text knowledgeably for uncertainties and ambiguities in legal history and found quite a few; I am grateful to Dirk for his caring attention.
Outside the legal profession, a wide range of scholars have helped me along. They include Bernard Barber, Sara Curran, Paul DiMaggio, Mitchell Duneier, Marion Fourcade, Susan Gal, Michael Katz, Daniel Miller, Julie Nelson, Charles Tilly, Florence Weber, and Evi – atar Zerubavel. Throughout the book’s writing, Chuck Tilly gave me the benefit of his legendary help and criticism. A talented group of research assistants have also collaborated in this project: Nicole Esparza, Alexandra Kalev, and Anna Zajacova. At the last minute, Alexis Cocco hunted down precise citations for a number ofthe legal cases. Access to cases on Westlaw comes compliments of Thomson – West.
For helpful reactions and criticism, I am grateful to audiences at Columbia Law School; Harvard Law School; University of Miami Law School; Yale Law School; the annual meetings of the American Anthropological Association; the Center for Working Families, University of California at Berkeley; the Ecole Normale Superieure, Paris; the IX European Amalfi Prize Meeting; the Feminist Legal Theory Workshop; MIT’s Sloan School of Management; the Rad – cliffe Institute; the Gender and Society Workshop, University of Chicago; and the departments of sociology at Rutgers University, Princeton University, Yale University, University of Pennsylvania, State University of New York at Albany, and University of California, Los Angeles.
The National Endowment for the Humanities at the Institute for Advanced Study, the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, and Princeton University supported leave time for me to work on my research. Beth Gianfagna brought her elegant expertise to bear on editing my text. Deborah Tegarden of Princeton University Press took over the management of the manuscript masterfully. Throughout, virtuoso editor Peter Dougherty buoyed my spirits with his enthusiasm for the manuscript and his commitment to making the book widely available. And, finally, for moral support as I pursued this long inquiry, I am grateful to my families in Argentina and the United States.
Some passages in this book adapt materials from my previous publications: “Payments and Social Ties,” Sociological Forum 11 (September 1996): 481-95; “Intimate Transactions,” in Mauro F. Guillen, Randall Collins, Paula England, and Marshall Meyer, eds., The New Economic Sociology: Developments in an Emerging Field (New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 2002), 274-300 (French translation appeared as “Transactions intimes,” Geneses 42 [March 2001]: 121— 44); “Circuits of Commerce,” in Jeffrey C. Alexander, Gary T. Marx, and Christine Williams, eds., Self, Social Structure, and Beliefs: Explorations in Sociology (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2004), 122—44; “Kids and Commerce,” Childhood 4 (November 2002): 375—96; “The Purchase of Intimacy,” Law & Social Inquiry 25 (Summer 2000): 817—48; “How Care Counts,” Contemporary Sociology 31 (March 2002): 115—19; “Culture and Consumption,” in Neil Smelser and Richard Swedberg, eds., Handbook of Economic Sociology, 2nd ed. (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press and New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 2005, pp. 331—54); and “The Priceless Child Revisited,” forthcoming in Jens Qvortrup, ed., Studies in Modern Childhood: Society, Agency and Culture (London: Palgrave, 2005).
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