Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Money as Gifts

Princeton sociologist Viviana Zeilizer has an interesting Op-Ed piece in the NYTimes in which she argues that "Nostalgic traditionalists and hard-nosed realists" are both wrong when they argue that money is or is not suitable for gifts. "For over a century, Americans have been demonstrating remarkable ingenuity in turning money into meaningful personal gifts." She has interesting examples from the early 20th century issues of The Ladies' Home Journal of ways that people hide money in cards, artwork, or in boxes and small gifts. Very interesting, but she this tension is strictly American, or "Western." Chinese have no problem giving money as gifts. It is the major form of gifts at the Lunar New Year holiday. There is something about money being dirty, be it from religious or feudal traditions, that still requires it to be hidden or laundered in the West, while it can be used "rationally" or "realistically" in China.

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