The social characterizations of price: The fool, the faithful, the frivolous, and the frugal

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Abstract

This article extends both Viviana Zelizer's discussion of the social meaning of money and Charles Smith's proposal that pricing is a definitional practice to the under-theorized realm of the social meanings generated in the pricing system. Individuals are attributed with calculating or not calculating whether an object or service is "worth" its price, but these attributions differ according to the individual's social location as being near to or far from a societal reference point rather than by the inherent qualities of the object or service purchased. Prices offer seemingly objective (quantitative) proof of the individual's "logic of appropriateness" - in other words, people like that pay prices such as those. This article sketches a preliminary but nonexhaustive typology of the social characterizations of individuals within the pricing system; these ideal types - the fool, the faithful, the frugal, and the frivolous - and their components offer a systematic approach to understanding prices as embedded in and constituents of social meaning systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)363-379
Number of pages17
JournalSociological Theory
Volume26
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 1 2008
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science

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