1932

Abstract

In her groundbreaking scholarship on intimacy and economy, Viviana Zelizer coined the concept of relational work, or efforts in matching social relations with economic transactions and media of exchange. This article reviews the conceptual advances and empirical applications of relational work over the past two decades. I first trace the origins of the concept and discuss how it is distinct from the idea of embeddedness. I then identify variants of relational work proposed in economic sociology, including relational accounting, obfuscated exchange, clarifying and blurring practices, and emotions and power in relational work. The second part of the review discusses research on relational work in five areas: earmarking money, walking the terrain of morally problematic exchange, configuring social relations through economic activity, using social relations to negotiate economic interactions, and scaling up to relational work of organizations and institutions. I end by proposing areas of future research to examine the determinants and consequences of relational work for (dis)trust, (in)equality, and relational (mis)matches.

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2020-07-30
2024-04-15
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