Money at Work

On the Job with Priests, Poker Players and Hedge Fund Traders

279 pages

July, 2012

ISBN: 9780814720806



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Kevin J. Delaney is Professor of Sociology and Vice Dean for Faculty Affairs in the College of Liberal Arts at Temple University and author of Strategic Bankruptcy and Public Dollars, Private Stadiums.

All books by Kevin J. Delaney

Financial advisors, poker players, hedge fund traders, fund-raisers, sports agents, credit counselors and commissioned salespeople all deal with one central concern in their jobs: money. In Money at Work, Kevin Delaney explores how we think about money and, particularly, how our jobs influence that thinking. By spotlighting people for whom money is the focus of their work, Delaney illuminates how the daily practices experienced in different jobs create distinct ways of thinking and talking about money and how occupations and their work cultures carry important symbolic, material, and practical messages about money.
Delaney takes us deep inside the cultures of these ‘moneyed’ workers, using both interviews and first-hand observations of many of these occupations. From hedge fund trading rooms in New York, to poker players at work in Las Vegas casinos, to a “Christian money retreat” in a monastery in rural Pennsylvania, Delaney illustrates how the underlying economic conditions of various occupations and careers produce what he calls “money cultures,” or ways of understanding the meaning of money, which in turn shape one’s economic outlook. Key to this is how some professionals, such as debt counselors, think very differently than say poker players in their regard to money—Delaney argues that it is the structure of these professions themselves that in turn influences monetary attitudes. Fundamentally, Money at Work shows that what people do for a living has a profound effect on how people conceive of money both at work and in their home lives, making clear the connections between the economic and the social, shedding light on some of our most basic values. At a time when conversations about money are increasingly important, Delaney shows that we do not merely learn our attitudes toward money in childhood, but we also learn important money lessons from the work that we do.


  • "Our relationship to money is fascinating--and not just in the ways we expect. Delaney's argument is anecdotal but persuasive."

    Zocalo Public Square

  • "Most of us, a few saints and one-per-centers aside, work for money, but not with it in the same direct manner of most of the subjects of Delaney’s intriguing study. We don’t manipulate cash to keep score like poker players (literally) or financial traders (figuratively) or work within a rich, mixed-message tradition of seeing money as a gift from God and ripe for human abuse—the root of all evil—like most clergy. Yet money work does have its effects, as Delaney, a sociologist at Temple University in Philadelphia, demonstrates: every workplace spawns its own money culture, its own cautionary tales of greed and fatal errors, its own conception of the universal economic lubricant."


  • "The book is a fascinating exploration of how, like mud on your shoe, you track money wherever you go. He finds, for instance, that bond traders don't just talk about bonds all day and then go home; with family they think of relationships in terms of profit and loss."

    —PRI's Marketplace

  • "Provides interesting insights...pleasant reading, as well."


  • "An important step in rethinking the social use of money. Outside the world of investment banks and credit derivatives is an entire sphere of activity around money—personal finance—that now lies at the center of an intellectual and public policy debate. If economic sociologists intend to remain relevant in this debate, they would do well to build on his ideas."

    —Daniel Beunza, American Journal of Sociology

  • “By pitching his analysis at the organizational rather than the interpersonal level, Delaney opens new venues of analysis that economic and political sociologists will find very productive as they attempt to pull together the multiple sociological dimensions of money.”

    Social Forces

  • “Readers will love this book for two reasons. First, it is written in a way that makes the reading highly enjoyable. Second, it brings a totally new approach to our understanding of money. The idea that the work we do affects the way we view money is simple and brilliant. Economic sociologists and other social scientists interested in money have much to learn from Money at Work.” 

    —Richard Swedberg, author of Principles of Economic Sociology

  • “Although everyone worries about money, it is easy to overlook its complexity. Kevin Delaney offers a fresh and perceptive analysis of the remarkably varied ways in which different people regard money. By focusing on those who work with it, including poker players, financial traders, investment advisors, fund raisers, salespeople, grant givers, clergy and debt counselors, he identifies distinctive ‘money cultures’ and provides a number of timely provocations and insights. Accessibly written, this book will stimulate many conversations.”

    —Bruce G. Carruthers, co-author of Economy/Society: Markets, Meanings, and Social Structure

  • “Social scientists know so little about how people think about money that theories of savings and consumption poorly predict behavior. Delaney brilliantly chronicles how our occupations shape our ‘money cultures.’ With artful choice of occupations and vivid detail he analyzes how different groups bring money to bear on their everyday routine. His work opens a new dimension in social studies of the economy.”

    —Mark Granovetter, author of Getting a Job: A Study of Contacts and Careers