Symposium to Explore the Impact of Money on Society

“Money Talks at Yale,” a symposium focusing on the power of money in society and social influences on its formation and use, will feature an international group of scholars and experts on the topic who will gather on campus on Friday, Sept. 12.

The symposium challenges the idea that money has an undue influence in politics, or that money has the power to push people to do things they might not do otherwise. The speakers will examine the concept that money transforms as much as it troubles, and that social actors still have a say. The Yale symposium will also recognize the 20th anniversary of the publication The Social Meaning of Money, the renowned book by Princeton sociology professor Viviana Zelizer, and will focus on the important social policy and disciplinary advances her work continues to inspire.

The event will begin at 9 a.m. in the Class of 1980 Rm. 2400 at the Yale School of Management, Evans Hall, 165 Whitney Avenue. After lunch, sessions will take place at the Yale Law School in the Sterling Law Building, 127 Wall Street, Room 127. The symposium is co-sponsored by the Office of the Provost at Yale, the Yale Center for Cultural Sociology, the Center for Organizational Research at the University of California-Irvine, the Yale Center for Comparative Research, the Yale Law School, the Yale School of Management, and the Whitney Humanities Center. The symposium is open to the public.

Speakers will include Jonathan Morduch, New York University; Supriya Singh, RMIT University-Australia, Bill Maurer, University of California-Irvine; Christine Desan, Harvard University; Nancy Folbre, University of Massachusetts at Amherst; Nigel Dodd, London School of Economics; Bruce Carruthers, Northwestern University; and Arlie Hochschild, University of California-Berkeley. The speakers will give presentations on topics including “Money Talks, but Plastic Money Tattles”; “Some A-B-Cs of Financial Fables”; “The Biography of Transnational Money”; “Economics, Psychology, and the Social Meaning of Money”; “Money and Sin in Early Political Economy”; “Money, Technology, and Bodily Experience”; “What Would You Do With a Million Dollars”; and “Economic Inequality and the Meaning of Money.”

“Whether we have a lot of money or not much at all, money is often in our thoughts," said Morduch, an economist who co-directs the U.S. Financial Diaries Project. "How we think about money helps define and reveal who we are: how we budget, how we scrape by and get ahead, and how we deny ourselves or give ourselves permission to spend. What people do with their money tends to follow patterns, and studying those patterns opens up new ways to understand society in all its complexity."

The symposium coincides with the development of economic sociology at Yale. The Department of Sociology has initiated a new Markets and Society concentration for its undergraduate students and is cultivating a list of sociological studies of markets and marketing among its graduate students. In addition, the School of Management will host an “Economy and Society at Yale” conference in October.

The conference is hosted by Frederick Wherry, professor of sociology and co-director of the Center for Cultural Sociology at Yale; Nina Bandelj, professor of sociology and co-director of the Center for Organizational Research at the University of California-Irvine; and Daniel Markovits, the Guido Calabresi professor of law at Yale and director of the Yale Center for the Study of Private Law.