Morals and Markets: The Development of Life Insurance in the United States (Legacy Editions) (Paperback)
Life insurance--the promise of an insurer to pay a sum upon a person's death in exchange for a regular premium--is a bizarre enterprise. How can we monetize human life? Should we? What statistics do we use, what assumptions do we make, and what behavioral factors do we consider? First published in 1979, Morals and Markets Is a pathbreaking study exploring the development of life insurance in the United States. Viviana A. Rotman Zelizer combines economic history and a sociological perspective to advance a novel interpretation of the life insurance industry. The book pioneered a cultural approach to the analysis of morally controversial markets.
Zelizer begins in the mid-nineteenth century with the rise of the life insurance industry, a contentious chapter in the history of American business. Life insurance was stigmatized at first, denounced in newspapers and condemned by religious leaders as an immoral and sacrilegious gamble on human life. Over time, the business became a widely praised arrangement to secure a family's future. How did life insurance overcome cultural barriers? As Zelizer shows, the evolution of the industry in the United States matched evolving attitudes toward death, money, family relations, property, and personal legacy.
About the Author
Viviana A. Rotman Zelizer is the Lloyd Cotsen '50 Professor of Sociology at Princeton University. She is the author of Economic Lives: How Culture Shapes the Economy (2010), The Purchase of Intimacy (2005), The Social Meaning of Money: Pin Money, Paychecks, Poor Relief, and Other Currencies (1994), and Pricing the Priceless Child: The Changing Social Value of Children (1985). She is also coeditor of the series Princeton Studies in Cultural Sociology.