Looking at Money in America

Ruben George Oliven


This article discusses meanings of money in America. It is based on an ethnography carried out in the United States by a Brazilian anthropologist who studied banks, investment
companies, health insurance, service clubs, compulsive spenders, restaurants, shops, scholarly and non-scholarlyarticles, financial magazines, books on personal finance, proverbs, expressions, etc. Money is looked at in relation to love, death, blood, semen, food, God, Catholicism and Protestantism. The author tries to compare attitudes towards money in the UnitedStates with those existing in Brazil. In North American society money, which can be regarded as a total social fact, is considered less polluting than in Brazil where it is represented as something potentially dirty perhaps because of the huge social andeconomic inequalities existing in that country. At the end the author asks if Brazil is following the North American path or whether its cultural specificities will work as counter-balancing checks.


Money; United States; Brazil; Debtors Anonymous; Catholicism; Protestantism; Individualism; Saving; Cleanliness

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Vibrant, Brasília, DF, Brasil. ISSN 1809-4341