The sacred meanings of money

Russell W. Belk, Melanie Wallendorf

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

177 Scopus citations


Contemporary money retains sacred meanings, as suggested in expressions such as 'the almighty dollar' and 'the filthy lucre'. Drawing on ethnographic data, the authors find that the interpretation of money as either sacred or profane depends on its sources and uses and that traversing the boundaries between the sacred and the profane is possible only with attention to proper context and ritual. In order to better understand people's use of money, it is necessary to consider the non-economic sacred functions that money may well have originally served and often continues to serve in modern economies. The thesis that modern money can be sacred and that it is sacralized by certain processes offers insight into some of the more puzzling ways in which people behave toward money.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)35-67
Number of pages33
JournalJournal of Economic Psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1990

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Applied Psychology


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