Véronique Flambard, Nicolas Vaillant and François-Charles Wolff INTRODUCTION Becker’s analysis of marriage (1973, 1974) is built on the hypothesis that the social process by which men and women meet is a market phenomenon, implying both material and psychological gains for (potential) partners. This market, frequently referred to as the ‘marriage market’, can be analysed by defining social relationships as a special case of consumer behaviour. Levy and Zaltman (1975) have termed exchanges on this market ‘intimate marketing’. One of the most cited papers on this issue is that of Hirschman (1987), who analysed the behaviour of advertisers using ‘lonely hearts’ columns. Hirschman’s analysis of dating advert users explores the role of consumption in human courtship and the idea of ‘marital exchange’ through the developments of the theory of resource exchange (Foa and Foa, 1974, p. 150). Hirschman deals with the demand for partners in terms of Lancaster’s economic theory of consumer behaviour (1966). Each potential partner is treated as a bundle of characteristics, including age, level of education, physical appearance and intelligence, among others. Consumption of these characteristics during the dating process will, to some extent, be a form of leisure. Becker’s seminal analysis of marriage (see Grossbard-Shechtman, 1995, 2003) has been followed by a number of works looking at the economics of the partner selection process more generally. There is empirical work on personal advertisements by Cameron and Collins (1997, 1999, 2000a, 2000b) and on marriage bureaux by Cameron and Vaillant (2006) and Le Guirriec and Vaillant...
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