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The Purchase of Intimacy

The Purchase of Intimacy

Viviana A. Zelizer
Copyright Date: 2005
Pages: 368
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  • Book Info
    The Purchase of Intimacy
    Book Description:

    In their personal lives, people consider it essential to separate economics and intimacy. We have, for example, a long-standing taboo against workplace romance, while we see marital love as different from prostitution because it is not a fundamentally financial exchange. InThe Purchase of Intimacy, Viviana Zelizer mounts a provocative challenge to this view. Getting to the heart of one of life's greatest taboos, she shows how we all use economic activity to create, maintain, and renegotiate important ties--especially intimate ties--to other people.

    In everyday life, we invest intense effort and worry to strike the right balance. For example, when a wife's income equals or surpasses her husband's, how much more time should the man devote to household chores or child care? Sometimes legal disputes arise. Should the surviving partner in a same-sex relationship have received compensation for a partner's death as a result of 9/11?

    Through a host of compelling examples, Zelizer shows us why price is central to three key areas of intimacy: sexually tinged relations; health care by family members, friends, and professionals; and household economics. She draws both on research and materials ranging from reports on compensation to survivors of 9/11 victims to financial management Web sites and advice books for same-sex couples.

    From the bedroom to the courtroom,The Purchase of Intimacyopens a fascinating new window on the inner workings of the economic processes that pervade our private lives.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-2675-9
    Subjects: Sociology, Economics

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Prologue
    (pp. 1-6)

    All of us sometimes gobble up the details of a famous couple’s divorce settlement, worry about whether certain children are suffering from their parents’ profligate spending, become indignant when someone close to us fails to meet important economic obligations, or complain about proposals to cut funding for day-care centers. When any of those things happens, we enter the territory in which economic activity and intimacy meet. In that territory, many people feel that two incompatible forces clash and wound each other: economic activity—especially the use of money—degrades intimate relationships, while interpersonal intimacy makes economic activity inefficient.

    In these...

  5. Chapter 1 Encounters of Intimacy and Economy
    (pp. 7-46)

    In the parish of Catahoula, Louisiana, during the 1840s Samuel Miller lived on his plantation with Patsy, his mulatto slave and sexual partner. In 1843, as Miller fell ill with dropsy, he sold the land and his slaves to Hugh Lucas, settling for nine promissory notes of $3,000 each, to be paid yearly. In April 1844, Miller, who was in declining health, left Louisiana with Patsy for St. Louis, Missouri. Before leaving, Miller gave the promissory notes to William Kirk, asking him to “keep them for Patsy’s benefit” since “he intended to have her emancipated, and that he wanted the...

  6. Chapter 2 Intimacy in Law
    (pp. 47-93)

    We return to Louisiana more than a century later. In 1958, supermarket entrepreneur John G. Schwegmann Jr. began dating, and bedding, sixteen-year-old Mary Ann Blackledge. They continued to have sexual relations when they started living together in May 1966. At that point, according to Blackledge, the middle-aged, twice divorced Schwegmann offered to “share everything” with her, and she said “okay.” They cohabited for twelve years, until May 1978. During that time, they continued to share bed and board. Schwegmann supported Blackledge, paying her dental and medical bills, clothing, entertainment, and travel expenses, as well as providing her with a monthly...

  7. Chapter 3 Coupling
    (pp. 94-157)

    On June 23, 1997, the Kansas Board for Discipline of Attorneys convened to consider the conduct of Jerry L. Berg, a Wichita, Kansas, divorce lawyer. In separate complaints, six of Berg’s female clients accused him of improper sexual behavior. After considering the evidence, the panel recommended disbarment. Although no specific prohibition exists in Kansas banning attorney-client sexual relations, the board condemned “exploitation of the attorney-client relationship to the detriment of the client” (In re Berg, 955 P.2d 1240, 1247 (Kan. 1998)).

    In one of the six complaints, R. M. reported consulting Berg about her divorce in August 1993, after her...

  8. Chapter 4 Caring Relations
    (pp. 158-208)

    Estimating her net worth at $2.4 billion, in 2001Forbesmagazine rated Barbara Piasecka Johnson among the world’s twenty wealthiest women. Forty years earlier, the young, impoverished Barbara Piasecka had arrived in the United States from her native Poland and worked as a cook. In between, however, she had married medical and baby products heir J. Seward Johnson and nursed him through his final illness. She then fought a fierce legal battle against her six stepchildren to retain the fortune Johnson had willed her. In his detailed analysis of the Johnson case,New York Timeslegal reporter David Margolick called...

  9. Chapter 5 Household Commerce
    (pp. 209-286)

    On February 28, 2004, theSan Diego Union-Tribunepublished a father’s anguished query:

    Question: I find myself between a rock and a hard place. When I was divorced 14 years ago, my son was 3. I remarried and have three daughters with my second wife. I have always paid my child support in advance and have even agreed to increases over the years because I knew my son needed it and because I wanted to avoid a fight. Now my ex is demanding that I make arrangements for our son to attend a premier, out-of-state college with a price tag...

  10. Chapter 6 Intimate Revelations
    (pp. 287-308)

    Hildegard Lee Borelli and Michael J. Borelli were married in 1980. Three years later, as Michael’s health began to falter, he went to the hospital repeatedly with heart trouble. In 1988, after he suffered a stroke, Michael’s doctors recommended round-the-clock institutional care. But Michael resisted the move. Instead, he promised his wife that if she cared for him at home, at his death he would leave her a large share of his estate. He did not keep the promise. The following year, after Michael’s death, Hildegard discovered he had bequeathed the bulk of his estate to Grace Brusseau, his daughter...

  11. References
    (pp. 309-346)
  12. Index
    (pp. 347-356)