Social Exchange TheoryPeter Blau“The Structure of Social Associations” • History: 1. Rose up in the 60’s as another response to functionalist theory 2. Blau rejects Parsons contention that individual value systems are responsible for human behavior 3. Describes a four step sequence which leads from interpersonal exchange to determination of status and power to legitimation and organization to opposition and social change.
Social Exchange Theory • The main principle of the theory is that people carry out their social interaction in the very same way that businesses carry out economic exchange. • People make decisions about whether or not to engage in social interaction with someone on the basis of the judged value (or desirability) of that interaction.
Interaction Value • The value of any social interact is determined by the persons mental calculation (cognitive calculus) of the costs and rewards. • Value = Anticipated Rewards – Expected Costs • Mini-max Principle maintains that people will join groups that provide them with the maximum number of valued rewards while incurring the fewest numbers of costs.
Comparison Levels Determine Group Membership Operates on two interrelated levels comparison level: • The comparison level refers to the standard by which the individual evaluates group membership. • The CL is the lowest level of reward acceptable for the person. • The CL is determined by assessing all the known costs and rewards incurred with the membership. • The alternative comparison level (AC) refers to the comparison of one specific group to other available groups. • The AC is really the best rewards available to someone given the available alternatives. • The AC is the main factor determining group membership. • The CL is the main factor determining satisfaction with group membership.
Social Attraction • The main force that draws people together is social attraction • Associations (institutions) which can offer rewards are highly attractive • Rewards strengthen social ties inadequate rewards deteriorate social ties • Two basic types of reward • Extrinsic • Intrinsic
Association and Interaction • Social Interaction develops initially in social groups (People attracted by rewards) • Emergent social groups • Established groups • Blau distinguishes small groups from large collective organizations • In small groups face to face interaction occurs between most members • In large face to face is rare and therefore the scheme of behaviorist theory does not apply
The Structure of Social Associations • Central Tasks of Sociology: • The analysis of social association • The governing processes • The forms of association • The purpose of studying face to face interactions • The foundation for understanding the social structures
Social Forces • Exchange Transactions • Power Relations • Reciprocity implies the existence of balancing forces that promote equilibrium, • The simultaneous existence of exchange and power forces produce imbalance in social life • The resulting dialectic between reciprocity and imbalance gives social structure their dynamic quality
The Exchange of Social Rewards • Human pleasure has its root in social life. • Love – power – wealth • Human suffering and happiness has its source in the actions of other human beings • i.e. the same human acts that cause pleasure to some cause displeasure to others, or power -> deprivation. • Social association are not zero sum games • People associate with one another because they all profit from the association – though not equally.
The Profits of Association • Some profits are intrinsic (internally rewarding) • It’s not seeing a play, but sharing the experience of seeing the play • Some are extrinsically rewarding (where some specific external profit is derived from the association) • Even altruistic behavior.
Civil Behavior • The purpose of etiquette is to prescribe approval in simulation to ensure social associations • We don’t tell the host that the party is boring • Social conventions (civil behavior) require complimentary rewards • Routinely discounted as not reflecting genuine approval • Other evidence, that does not originate in convention is looked for • do they come to other parties I throw?
Reward Tendencies • Humans possess psychological tendencies to receive various kinds of rewards • Accepted as a given • Without regard for how these tendencies originate • The concern is for the social forces that originate from the tendency • New social forces emerge in increasingly complex social structures • The dynamic nature of the forces is very much removed from the ultimate psychological base of all social life
Reward Attraction • An individual is attracted to another because he expects to get some reward out of the association • Expectations of intrinsic reward v. expectation of extrinsic reward • The difference lies in the two different meanings of attraction
Intrinsic v. Extrinsic Reward Expectations • Intrinsic – social attraction means more than having positive feelings toward the other • Deriving some internal source of reward from an association • Continuing the relationship even in the face of negative feelings • Extrinsic – means being drawn to another for any reasons whatsoever • Beyond simply continuing the association
Attraction at Work • A person who is attracted to the other must prove himself attractive to reap the expected rewards • The other will not be attracted without the anticipation of reward • the person tries to impress • impressive qualities makes a person attractive • Mutual attraction prompts people to establish an association and mutually anticipate rewards and profits
Attraction and Social Exchange • The process of social attraction leads to processes of social exchange. • The nature of the exchange differs between: • associations concerned with intrinsic rewards • associations concerned with extrinsic rewards • In an intrinsically rewarding association the only expectation is the continuation of the association • In extrinsically rewarding associations there is the expectation of a reciprocity of benefits
Social Exchange Processes • Service A for Service B • Merchandise for Money • Chore for Chore • Love for Love • Where in social life is the exchange process not involved?
Non-Reciprocal Exchange • In a situation where a person is in need of service, but has nothing to offer • Four alternatives: • Force the other to reward • Obtain reward from another • Get along without the reward • Subordinate self to the other for the reward.
Exchange Processes and Differentials of Power • Exchange process give rise to differentials of power • The person who has what others need, but is independent of their reward offer • Commands Power over them. • The principle applies equally to intimate and distant relationships • The girl with whom the boy is in love with has power over him • The employer can make workers comply because they are dependent for wages
Power in Associations • The power of the individual weakens if: • Subordinate can coerce • Equally good alternatives • Can do without rewards • Unilateral services that meet basic needs are the penultimate source of power
Balance and Imbalance of Power • A person upon whom others are dependent has the power to issue demands • If the demands are assessed as fair and just in relation to benefits received • There develops social pressure to comply • If demands are unfair there arise feelings of exploitation • The collective disapproval of power gives rise to social pressure to oppose
Dynamic Forces • Differential power in large collective organizations leads to two dynamic forces: • Legitimating Force - pressure to comply • Countervailing Force – pressure to oppose • Balance is an ambiguous term since all balance is the result of some imbalance
Reciprocity and Imbalance • The reaction of those without power to the demands of power is: • Rooted in the social experience which governs their reaction: • The benefits of being in an organization may outweigh the investments required to obtain them OR • The demands may exceed the returns
Power Imbalance Outcomes • Blau refers to the two possible outcomes as: • Positive imbalance • Positive imbalance results in legitimate authority and thereby strengthens its controlling influence • Negative imbalance • Negative imbalance of power stimulates opposition • The opposition negatively reciprocates(retaliates) for excessive demands in an attempt to even the score • But simultaneously creates disequilibria and imbalance in the social structure.