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Social Exchange Theory Author(s): Richard M. Emerson Source: Annual Review of Sociology, Vol. 2 (1976), pp.

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98195 Washington Seattle, of University Washington, of Department Sociology,


RichardM. Emerson

in yearstherehas emerged sociologyand social psychology Duringthe last fifteen responwerelargely Four figures theory. approachcalled social exchange a distinct sible: George Homans, JohnThibaut,Harold Kelley,and PeterBlau. Homans in and to "Social behavioras exchange"(1958) made a consciouseffort identify adIts in his vance thispointof view.In 1961,he amplified argument Social Behavior: Forms, which has now been revised(1974). Also in the late 1950s Elementary schemein TheSocial their Thibaut& Kelleywereconstructing compactconceptual ways,theirworkconin of Psychology Groups(1959). While different important approach.WhenBlau's the withHomans's,strengthening generalexchange verged approachwas assureda future the Exchangeand Power(1964a) appeared, exchange in the field. in majorworkswereas important launching between thesethree The differences While Blau gave moreemphasis the exchangeapproach as weretheirsimilarities. of to technicaleconomic analysis,Homans dwelled more upon the psychology brand of psybehavior.Yet in doing so, he drew upon a different instrumental by chologythan that represented Thibaut& Kelley. In addition,theyemployed withpsychologiThibaut& Kelleystart construction. of strategies theory different thereto the small build upwardto thedyad,and build upwardfrom cal concepts, in approach,moving theoppositedirecgroup.Homans takesa morereductionist processesalreadyin mind,he of tion. With considerableknowledge group-level of which,he claims,help to principles reinforcement pointsto the psychological warnsus to explainthem.However,PeterBlau, contrary bothoftheseapproaches, aspects emergent can withpsychology blindus to theimportant thatpreoccupation of social exchange. yet on such as thesediverge particulars, converge statements Whenthreestrong will viewpoint as of on a central viewpoint-socialexchange a frame reference-that is theory stillgrowyearslater,exchange Now, seventeen impetus. be givengreater and ing; it stillcontainsdiversity sparksof controversy.



The Scope of Exchange Theory we understand In setting goalsfor critique socialexchange the of theory, must this it at of within which many theories that is nota theory all. It is a frame reference to whether arguin -some micro somemore and macro-canspeak oneanother, or condition the for exchange frame reference of ment inmutual The support. scope as conceived hasbeenmost defined Blau(1964a):"Socialexchange here by simply reactions from others." on is limited actionsthatare contingent rewarding to is rewarding process involvmutually contingent, mutually and Implied a two-sided, "exchange." ing"transactions" simply or and might Thatbasicprinciples reinforcement psychology microeconomics be of Indeed, the in (Homans1961)is self-evident. relevant studying socialexchange in for as might described, simplicity,theeconomic be exchange approach sociology of The addressed Hoby socialsituations. socialsituations analysis noneconomic in social and Blau werelocatedlargely theinformal mans,Thibaut Kelley, & a of modeof Exchange theory brings quasi-economic interaction smallgroups. 1951)and member into Can pressure (Schachter analysis thosesituations. group as involvbe viewed twosides a transaction of 1954) better conformity (Hockbaum of or 1964,Nord (See ingtheexchange utility reward? Homans1961,Emerson in be through supply curves situation examined 1968).Can status a peer-group a returns Should contact eye with smile, (Blau 1964)? and thelaw ofdiminishing in as relabe evokes valuedapproval studied one transaction an exchange which tion? The convergence Thibaut Kelley, Blau can be said to & and Homans, among in At the of work. themicrolevel, study important converge turnwithother has interaction strong affinities an exchange with approach. we gain Do strategic as and identity presentations insocialinteractioncomofself anything treating by the of bargaining? Perhaps implicit modities a sort, subject gainorlossthrough to & (1964),Jones (1964), lineof research by represented Weinstein Deutschberger & et (1966),Weinstein al (1968, 1969),Stires Jones Gergen (1969), Weinstein with of psychologyHomans (1969),andGoffman (1970)willconverge theoperant is andothers. starting for study point the psychologynottheonly Clearly, operant in an Barth framework anof exchange. exchange (1966),in developing explicit draws thropology uponthislineofwork. and can theory roletheory be convergence between exchange Further promising in found theworkof Goode (1973),research Emerson (1968) and Stolte& by Emerson (1976). in has of level, At themacrosociological exchange beenemployed theanalysis in of of 1972b), thestudy socialstratification thedivision labor(Emerson and and Cook 1975b) urban comrelations & (Levine White 1961, interorganizational discussions and exchange making (Clark1968).In some munity structure decision to functionalism has as theory parallel structural theory beentreated a general the Ellis 1971).In political science & (Curry Wade 1968), exchange (Clark1972, behavior. has as to approach political approach beenoffered a general



As important. Anderson is in One line of convergence, myjudgment, especially shades theory "sociologicalexchange has communication) observed, (1970,personal way." Eversinceanthropoloimperceptible in intoeconomicanthropology a rather economicstheyhave been engagedin on gistsbegan to focusattention primitive in continuous debate about the properplace of economictheory anthropological neoclassical (1974). Statedbriefly, (1940) to Schneider research-fromHerskovits decisionmaking individual so aroundrational is economictheory organized heavily or to thatitsapplicability tradition-bound normamarket in a perfectly competitive marketsis placed in doubt, yet tivelyregulatedbehavioroutsideof competitive social exchange exchange.Therefore, through goods are producedand distributed (Herskoin economies behavior non-Western is theory neededto deal withexchange 1969,Polanyietal 1957,Sahlins1965)and vits1940,Malinowski1922,Levi-Strauss [This convermarket. competitive also in Westernsocietyoutsideof the perfectly by doctrinaire manner Ekeh in gencehas been examinedrecently an unfortunately (1974).] itemsas diverse exchange theory PerhapsI cast too broad a net.I includewithin reinforcement operant studyof reciprocal as Burgess& Neilsen's(1974) laboratory and redistribution exchange"in in the dyad and Polanyi'sstudiesof "reciprocity, if et economicanthropology (Polyanyi al 1958:243-70).However, I err comparative heterogeneous is for it is moreon theside ofomission; whilethematerial extremely reindetail,it is joined by analyticconcepts-resource,reward, in morphological etc. payoff, outcome,transaction, profit, opportunity, forcement, cost, utility, for fieldsand fashioned use in different These concepts,drawn fromdifferent thantheir largenumber of parsimony potential contexts, carrythepromise greater mightimply.

Plan of thisCritique
are conceptsand some of the In thispaper I first examinewhatI think thecentral is Special attention main researchtopicswithinthe exchangeframeof reference. tautology, rationality, from thoseconcepts: that givento majorcontroversies spring wherethe same generic I and reductionism. turnthento economicanthropology, betweeneconomictheoryand economic are controversies seen in the interplay a resolution: explicit Those paralleldebatesare usedto suggest partial anthropology. thaneither rather personsor actions,as the unitof adoptionof the social relation are as majordifferences fromthe relation the unitof analysis, analysis.Springing betweeneconomicand social exchangetheory. observed of is dyadiccharacter mostexchange attention focusedon thepeculiarly Finally, is frommicroor dyadic to macro exchangetheory taken analysis.The transition in up as the finaltopic of interest the paper. CONCEPTS AND CONTROVERSIES

containsthe mostgeneral psychology Homans (1969) has arguedthatbehavioral as laws applicableto human social behavior.Since society, he sees it, consistsof



behaving people,he suggests thatsocialtheory be advancedbeyond currently can its impoverished conditionif principles reinforcement includedin sociological of are explanations. Thus, Homans issued a clarioncall fora behavioralpsychological formof exchangetheory sociology, in whichhas provokedin reaction chargesof reductionism, assumedrationality, tautological and reasoning. is essential, It therefore, thatwe beginwithan examination someofthepsychological of underpinnings ofsocial exchangetheory, orderto confront in theseimportant controversies. my In opinionthechargesof rationality, tautology, reductionism and have real substance and warrantcarefulattention exchangetheorists. is interesting similar by It that issues have emergedin economicanthropology concerning use of economic the in theory the studyof primitive exchange. The Operant Format The variety reinforcement of psychology chosenbyHomanswas Skinnerian operant features. psychology. That school has two outstanding First,it is characterized by itsown methodology, whichevolvedaroundthewell-known Skinner box. Second, it has assembled a large body of empiricalregularities obtained throughthat method, witha minimum-ifnotan absolutepaucity-of theoretical interpretation. The operantresearchformat typically involves(a) a singlesubject,(b) studied overan extended that periodoftime, in a boundedenvironment allowssequen(c) tial manipulation stimulus That environment a of be conditions. might a nursery, the box fora pigeon, school forretarded children, hospitalfora patient, Skinner a or some othertotalinstitution. Thus, in thetypical operant format, theexperi(d) menter "behavior (or modifier") enjoys realsocial poweroverthesubject. Therefore, as we shall see, operantpsychology thestudyof theeffective of social power is use in controlling behavior. For a social exchangetheorist, operantresearchis seen to studyan organismas Let environment exchangesystem. us illustrate, Homans did, withthepigeonin and a disc the Skinner on box. Let thebox containa light(SI) thatis either or off thatthepigeonmight the occasionally peck (R). In addition, box willoccasionally providesome stimuluswe shall simplylabel S2 for now. Suppose the box is so designedthat: (a) if the lightis on and (b) if the disc is peckedfivetimes,then fivepresseswill make S2 recur;and so on fora whichanother S2 will occur; after that:(c) ifthepigeonhas not longtime.Now supposethatpigeonsare so designed and (d) if disc peckingproducesS2, thenthe encountered veryoftenrecently S2 an pigeonwill peck the disc. Under theseconditions exchangerelationwill form box in thiscase). The pigeon between pigeonand its environment Skinner the (the will give out peckingbehaviorR contingent upon S2 and the box will provideS2 is to contingent upon R. The contingency the one referred by Blau above, in his definition exchange. of The nextpointbearsheavily of upon thelogicalstructure social exchange theory as putforth Homans. The observed by factofdisc-pecking undertheabove continor genciesis thedefining condition wherein: is labeleda discriminative stimulus, SI SD, R is labeled an operantresponse, and S2 is called a reinforcing stimulus,or in of to SR. These threebasic conceptsare defined terms theirrelation one another,



and theyconstitute threeanalyticalelementsin a single empiricalsystem-an exchangerelation. shallreturn thispointbelowwhenwe discussand attempt We to in to resolvethe questionof tautologies social exchangetheory. in The organism-environment exchange involved herecan be seenclearly theratio R/S2 in contingency above. That contingency called a scheduleof reinforce(b) is an ment,a fixedratioscheduleof 5/1 in thiscase, called simply FR-5 schedule.If S2 is one unitof grain,thenFR-5 can be takenas thepricethepigeonmustpay in disc pecks in exchangefor grain. Operant researchhas dwelt largelyupon the in favorable of exchangefor efficacy variousschedulesof reinforcement obtaining in theexperimenter environment our example).We learnthatan FR-I is most (the in himdepeneffective drawingthepigeonintoan exchangerelation (thusmaking the we dentand gaining poweroverhim).Once he has entered relation are toldhow to "thin out" the scheduleto FR-2, FR-3 ... FR-347, gainingmore and more at We behavior less and lesscost(in grain)to theexperimenter. are told,byoperant a is research, thatifwe shift from fixed a variableratio(VR-X), thenextinction to slow. That is, we can continueto get behaviorfromthe pigeon afterwe have terminated side of the exchange. our Is it any wonder,then,thatthe two most prominent researchtopics in social be are topicsfor exchange theory powerandjustice?Can there anymoreimportant studyin sociology? Homans' Propositions Homans reminds thatthe us Whilepigeonsare not veryinteresting sociologists, to (1974) thesystem system outlinedabove appliesas well to people. He summarizes describedin the contingencies ... (d) above in threebasic propositions about (a) humanbehavior: 1. The Success Proposition. "For all actions takenby persons,the more oftena the is the particular actionofa personis rewarded, morelikely person to perform thataction" (under similarstimulus conditions)"(p. 16). of 2. TheStimulusProposition. in thepasttheoccurrence a particular "If stimulus, or set of stimuli,has been the occasion on which a person'saction has been are stimuli to thepastones,themore the rewarded, thenthemoresimilar present the likelythe personis to perform action,or some similaraction,now" (pp. 22-23). 3. The Deprivation-Satiation "The more oftenin the recentpast a Proposition. a unit the personhas received particular reward, less valuableanyfurther ofthat rewardbecomesforhim" (p. 29). withthree the of The readershouldnoticethatthesethree correspond propositions the that define above (contingencies (a), and (c), respectively) jointly elements (d), it that Since to rewardmeansto reinforce, follows basic conceptof reinforcement. 1 It proposition. (See below on proposition cannotbe falsified. is a noncontingent the issue of tautology.) two of whichshould Homans supplements thesethreepropositions withothers, be introduced now. He observesthat rewardsoccur in varying magnitudeand



he accordingly defines valueas "thedegree reward."(1974:25) He thenstatestwo of propositions which I take to be refinements proposition They are: of 1. 4. The ValueProposition. "The morevaluableto a personis theresult hisaction, of the more likelyhe is to perform action." (p. 25) the The Rationality Proposition. choosingbetween "In alternative actions,a person willchoose thatone forwhich, perceived himat thetime, value, VK as by the of the result, multiplied theprobability, of getting result, thegreater." by the is p, (p. 43)

The Issue of Rationality: Operant Psychology Versus Decision Theory

The readerwillappreciate factthattheterms the reward, reinforcement, value,and utility have verynearlythesame meaning thisdiscussion. in Rewardand value in Homans's usage are equivalentto reinforcement the magnitude and thereof in operantlanguage. In economicsand decisiontheory (Harsanyi 1966 and others) utility, is employedwhereHomans uses V in the Rationality Proposition. The U, element is a subjective p or probability estimate "expectation" decisiontheory, in and it corresponds in withthefrequency reward proposition Add to all ofthis of 1. thefactthatthewell-known important and of principle diminishing marginal utility in economictheory expresses sameidea as thedeprivation-satiation the proposition, and it becomesveryclear thatoperantpsychology and economicdecisiontheory offer In alternative starting pointsforsocial exchangetheory. myopinionit makes verylittledifference which of these traditions one chooses, but thereare some differences should be aware of. we The first these is the troublesome in of problemof rationality human social In interaction. one place Blau defined behavior mean"voluntary to actions exchange of individualsthat are motivated the returns by theyare expectedto bring-." (1964a:91) These words, along with the rationality proposition above, seem to describepeople makingconsciouschoices based upon self-interested deliberation of doubts priorto takingaction.Bierstedt (1965), in his review Blau's book,simply I thatmuchof humansocial actionis based upon such considerations. am inclined whilepeople and firms sometimes withsuch act to agree withhim. Furthermore, I deliberate to rationality, do notwantto limitsocial exchangetheory thatnarrow class of actions.Indeed,a wide rangeof behaviorstudiedwithin exchangetheory and -gift giving,relationsof reciprocity, the normof reciprocity (Mauss 1925, Sahlins 1965,Gouldner1960)-is explicitly "motivated thereturns not by theyare expectedto bring,"as Blau puts it. Yet we have the paradox that such behaviorusually does bringreturns. The is to recipient a gift somehowobligated providea return of (Gouldner1960),even thoughit is unseemlyfor the giverto expect one. On this topic reinforcement It understood and decision differ psychology economic theory markedly. is generally thatan intelligent well-informed and or assumedin economictheory actorformulates probabilities and estimates for actionspriorto expectedutilities alternative in and acting."Rationality" humanbehavior refer thesepredecision can to deciding withthedecisionrulestatedin therationality cognitive processes, together proposi-



witheach socialrelations thatpeople,in their any whofeels tion.By contrast, reader and other, moreon sentiment habitthanupon such reasoneddecisionmaking act much more palatable.The operant should findHomans and operantpsychology In such rationality. place allows,butdoes notrequire, approachto social exchange of it ofcalculationand reasonin humanaffairs, reliesupon valueas theresult prior in A givento a friend without relationships. gift exchange conditioning longitudinal The of can failto recurovertimewhenit is not reciprocated. expectations return that mightdie or failto formin a processof reinforcement entailsno friendship rationalelementat all. The issue,then,is not the priorcalculationof the giverinvitations notalways are Giftsand party future therelation. of it is theunfolding in reciprocated, whichcase theydon't get repeated. applicationof the basic operant is The above interpretation a straightforward featureof as format. am led to rejectpriorcalculationof returns a defining I exchangein favorof a much broaderbase-social operantbehavior.'The latter to, Social operantbehavioris behavior includes,but is not confined the former. over time is sustainedby reinforcing of whose level or frequency performance behavior and accompanying activity from otherpeople.If theemotion (rewarding) self-denial pursuit the other'swelfare, in of called "love," withall of its irrational reis sustainedin the long run onlyby reciprocallove (among othersupporting analyzed withinthe exchangeapturns),then the love relationis appropriately proach. On I believethispositionis essentially whatHomans outlined. theissue of prior more like pigeonsthan like choice people are sometimes planningand deliberate in but are entrepreneurs, entrepreneurs people.Thus, rationality thesenseofaction forms partofa larger one subject based upon priorcalculationofexpectedreturns of matter social exchange.

TheIssueof Tautology
Both pigeonsand people mightbe considered"rational"in a less cerebralsense, and minimize costover reward tendto act so as to maximize meaning onlythatthey approachof Homans differs timeor in the long run. Here also the operant-based I from economicor decisiontheory the approach.Homans's propositions markedly over or maximization in reward utility and III agreewithdecisiontheory asserting the long run,but theyassigna different logical statusto thisassertion. as is offered an assumprationality either For economists and decisiontheorists, model for as reasons,or it is offered a normative tion,forverygood theoretical Homans seemsto offer version-proposihis behavior.By contrast, "appropriate" in demonstrated the Skinnerian laboratory. tions I and III-as empiricaltruths decisions rather maximizing than 'In stating preference reciprocal behavior for operant my or or as a scopecondition,in no wayadvocate adopt"Skinnerian" I psychology anyother and as simply a short well-underbehaviorist The socialoperantis usedhere position. word or or over and stood behavior is formed sustained changed time through that wayofsaying from in returns (reinforcement) other that upon occasions, a way iscontingent valued repeated people.



Unfortunately, neitherSkinnernor anyoneelse has or will provethemthrough As empirical research, theyare bothuntestable. a result, Homans's scheme for (a) and I has often beenchallenged grounds tautology, (b) withpropositions and on of really does III removed are left we wondering whatcontribution operant psychology to maketo social exchange theory. (See Emerson1972afora laborious effort answer thisquestion.) However,the above assertions mustbe explained.Homans has takengreatcare to defendhis schemeagainstchargesof tautology, bothin 1961 and 1974,yetthe chargespersist.Why?And does it reallymatter? The problemlies at the heart of exchangetheory, with the most important (1) conceptsof all: rewardand value. Homans feelsthatthesuccessproposition is and reinforcement safe fromthis challengebecause responsefrequency (reward) frequency be independently can measured (1974:33-34). Theycan be,butthatis not a the point.They do not have independent meaning:a rewardis, by definition, stimulusconsequencethat increasesor maintains Therefore, responsefrequency. 1 proposition cannotbe wrong.It cannotbe tested.All we can do is use it; use it in logicalchains;use it to determine If stimulus. the whatis and is nota rewarding pigeonin theSkinner box did notpeckthediskwhenthedisk-peck producedfood, I thepigeonmight butproposition wouldliveon in good health.It is a logically die, usefulbut untestableformulation. Walkins (1970:172-79) has so elegantly As some shown,we, as social scientists, cannotlogicallyorganizeour workwithout proposition linking value to action. 1 like whether its Thus, if we need proposition or something it, does it matter of truth If dependson factor upon definition? we are not clear about whichform we truth assignto it,thenour thinking muddled.For example, might to design gets that is trueby definition. Crosbie experiments intending "test" a proposition to have been (1972) conducted such an experiment. Notingthat"few,ifany,attempts made to directly testHomans' originalpropositions," Crosbieset out to testthe in an of equivalent Propositions 3, and 4 above. He conducted experiment which 1, for or subjectscould either complywithrequests notcomplywhenrewarded comthatthesewould plying. "The reward selected was Tandemnotebooks-. It was felt have an initialrewardvalue to the student subjects." to the Thus, withnotebooks assumedto be rewarding, experiment purported test certaingeneralhypotheses. was foundthat subjectscomplymore when given It notebooks subjects comply thanwhennotgivenanything successproposition); (the of and morefortwo thanforone notebook (the value proposition); theincrement accumulated (thedepriincreased compliancegoesdownwithadditional notebooks I had been different:submit vation-satiation proposition). But supposethe results the thatifsubjectshad not compliedin theabove pattern initialassumption-that that the notebookswere rewarding-wouldhave been rejected.Suppose further wererewarding evidencethatnotebooks experimenter some otherindependent had in for Would we to thosesubjects, failedto getcompliance exchange notebooks. yet thenbe forced rejectPropositions and III as false?No, we wouldthenconclude I to that the value of noncompliance greater is than the value of notebooksto those



subjects. fact,Propositions and III are notat issuein thisexperiment. In I Theyare true.They are useful, not testable. The utility such propositions the logic of explanation well discussedby of in is Walkins(1970). That there uses (as wellas misuses)fortautologies shownby are is Liska (1969). Their value in experimental research can be illustrated witha study thatwas organizedon a logicalstructure verydifferent theabove experiment. from Cozby (1972) set out to discoverwhether not intimate or revelations valuable are and costlyto give,byobserving reciprocation intimacy thesocial to receive the of in exchangeprocess.

The Issue of "Explanation"Versus Prediction

But theissueoftautology other has facets it.The factthatHomans'spropositions to I and III are nottestable implies onlythattheyshouldbe employed assumptions as rather thanas empirical contributions from operantpsychology. does not imply It that Homans's currentuse of those propositions circularor tautological.As is Meeker(1971:486) has observed, ... rationality easily that choose what can become tautological;wepredict people if they value find what and out they value observing they by what choose, havenotaccomwe plished much except describe to choice behavior. In formulating propositions, his Homans was fullycognizantof the dangerdescribedby Meeker and he devoted several pages to discussingit (1961:42-43, 1974:33-35). If one has independent of knowledge whata personfinds rewarding, 1 a thenpropositions or 3 can be employedin explaining predicting person's or behavior.Some exampleswill help: A 1. Why does groupmember "conform" groupnorms? to 3 (a) Proposition (assumed): (b) memberA is knownto value approval;and (c) members C ... N give him approvalwhenhe conforms. B, A (d) Therefore, conforms. 2. Why does politicianX advocatethe policieshe does? 3 (a) Proposition (assumed): and (b) X needs campaigncontributions, (c) group Y contributes heavily, contingent upon the policieshe advocates. X (d) Therefore, advocatescertainpolicies. 3. Why does Johnny whencompanyis in the house? misbehave (a) Proposition3 (assumed): is (b) Johnny knownto value his parents'attention; in of (c) his parentsattendto him whenhe misbehaves front company; aroundcompany. misbehaves (d) Therefore, Johnny of The reasoning not circularso long as our knowledge (b) is not derivedfrom is our knowledge (d). Homans was himself carefulon thispoint.Yet despitehis of accuse himoftautological caution,Homans' critics reasoning (See Deutsch 1964).



whenusingthe reward-cost If one mustbe so carefulto avoid circularreasoning despitesuch care, thenthere and framework, is likelyto be accused of circularity analysis.I suspect reward-cost of mustbe stillotherflaws somesorthiddenwithin bothof themmore two otherproblems, from springs thatthe chargeof tautology ad involves hoc explanation-thedifference subtleand illusivein nature.The first aboutpsychoto The and hindsight prediction. secondrelates controversies between logical reductionism. based on rewardswill help us see the issue. The above examplesof explanation it but (a) The logical sequencefrom to (d) is notcircular, unfortunately,does not value campaignmoney, While all politicians either. followas a reliableprediction or and whileall mighthave theirprice,we do not knowwhether not the "priceis the right"untilafter factof (d). Whilemostpeople value social approval,we can to well the seldommeasurethatvalue,alongwith costofconformity, enough predict in thatone will conform exchangeforapproval.The same applies to the child in While we musthave example3, and in any otherexampleone cares to mention. of evidenceof (b) independent (d), (d) is almostalwaysthebestevidencewe can To thanprediction. rather of in obtain.And we have it first thecontext explanation in problems measurement predictexchangebehaviorfromvalues poses profound values. However "explanation"is akin to of the situationalassessment relevant becausewe can assessvaluesfrom precisely and hindsight, thisis farlessdemanding is the the consequentexchangebehavior.If we do, however, explanation circular.

The Issue of Reductionism

explanations for grounds suspecting In additionto the above logicaland empirical to sourceofdoubtrelating thecommon is there another of couchedin terms reward, an process abovetakeas given exchange The listed chargeofreductionism. examples betweentwo parties.They thenemploythe behaviorof one partyto explainthe groupmembers whydo fellow of behavior theother.But theactionsare reversible: A? 3, approveof member (a) Proposition (b) theyare knownto value conformity; therefore he is approvedof. We now take as given (d) (c) memberA conforms; in what was problematic the above example. (conformity) of or Sociologistswho are skepticalof the possibility desirability psychological at would have reasonto ask at least threequestions thispoint.First, reductionism have we explained anything, whentwo actionsare "explained,"each by theother, social phenomenon? Second,bywhatright a described reciprocal or havewe simply (theexchange can we-or forwhatreasonshouldwe-separate a singlesocial event acts each to be individual for of conformity approval)intotwo quasi-independent whenthecontributas if And third, we viewthesocial relation explained explained? of ing actionsof each partyhave been "explained,"as above, whatotherfeatures due or unexamined, to ourpossibly to are thesocial relation likely be overlooked left This, I believe,is the point posed by Blau sense of comprehension? premature in phenomena thestudy emergent us (1964), in warning to be alertalwaysto possible of social exchange. reasonthat if heeding, onlyforthepractical issuedby Blau is worth The warning has psychology not yetattainedbehavioralomniscience.




In Part I, I suggested thatfourdisciplines contribute the exchangeapproach. to However,our discussionso farhas drawnlargelyupon workin psychology and is sociology.There we have seen thatwhenreinforcement psychology applied to social situations, certain controversies emerge concerning issuesof rationality, tauand reductionism. tology, Turningto the othertwo fields, find interesting informative we an and parallel. In economic anthropology, where economic theoryencounters anthropological debated.For data, the same issues emergeand have been even more vigorously instance, Cohen (1967:104) pointsout that thereare severalmodes of economic nowconsider but the analysis, theone mostdominant, one "whichsomeeconomists thebasic methodof theirscience-restson the assumption-thatmenwill seek to maximizetheirgains by obtaining the highestpossiblereturn any givenrefor sources. But when this assumption applied in many anthropological is settings, Cohen observes(1967:106) thatit ... becomes little nothing than self-defeating or more a can tautology. action be Any to the for saidto maximize someone's gain;ifa manfails obtain highest possible price hisgoodsbecause hisimpatience quitthemarket, he couldbe saidto have of to then of to maximized gain,sincetheprospect additional his monetary is inadequate gain a Since outweigh someother advantage, as attendingceremony. he is maximizing such value. hisgainwhatever does, concept hardly explanatory (Thisdifficulty he the can have hasbeennoted Firth by 1939:25-20.) We need not repeatour earlier analysisof rationality tautology. and The importantpointis simply parallel;between economics and anthropology, between and the We and reinforcement the sociology psychology, same issuesemerge. shouldbe able to learnsome lesson fromtheseparalleldebates.

Social Relationsas UnitsofAnalysis

Much of the controversy about rationality, tautology and reductionism easily is resolved. onlyrequires It thatwe adoptexplicitly social exchange the relation the as basic unit of analysis. This is dictatedin part by the natureof the concept of reinforcement. above discussion The beganwiththeobservation R and SR,the that in reward and theoperant behavior rewarded, defined terms each other. are of They form singleconceptual a and observational the unit, partsofwhichare onlyanalytirelation callyseparate. Sincethesetwoelements spanbothsidesoftheexchange (e.g. and SR=social approvalfromthe R=conforming behaviorby a group member, group,providedin exchangeforconformity), seems essentialthatwe take the it social relation an integral unit.It is mycontention as observational conceptual and thattheabove confusion the and concerning issuesof rationality, tautology, reductionism of from failure honorthe integrity the social relation a to springs directly as a unitof analysis. To makethispointas clearas possible, consider three different ofempirical units observation: actionsor decisionsby individuals; transactions betweenindividuals;



and exchangerelations seriesof transactions as betweenthe same individuals. On a philosophical plane,no one oftheseunitscan claimto be morereal thananother. The factthatpersonscan be pinchedmakesthemno moresubstantial thansocial relations. That exchangerelations composedofactionsgivesactionsno empiriare cal primacy over relations. For example,theact of giving gift a takesplace within a social relation, and such an act evolvedas partof a social relation. Most operant acts evolve withinsuch relations. Firth(1967:4) has put it: As
There is in social anthropology understandable an view that it is the social relation whichis primary, whichdictatesthe content and formof the transaction.

Firthquotes Sahlins (1965:139) on the same point:

A material is transaction usuallya momentary episodein a continuous social relation. The social relationexertsgovernance: flowof goods is constrained is part of,a the by, statusetiquette.

Thereis a longtradition sociology anthropology inclines to focusupon in and that us social relations, viewing individuals actionsas purely and analytic elements within such relations. Ratherthanstudying actionsofleadingpeople,we studyleaderthe follower role relations; rather thanspeakingof the powerof persons, speak of we etc. power-dependence relations; When the relationis explicitly adopted as the unit of analysis,the problemof tautology dissolvesand thecloselyrelated problem value measurement signifiof is cantlyeased. Recall that the operantexperiment outlinedin Part IIA does not it it explainthepigeon'sbehavior; rather, describes as partofan organism-environmentexchange.In so doing,it provides basis formeasuring value ofSR to the a the if pigeon.Similarly, we describe social exchange the relation whicha groupgives in a personapprovalor statusin return hisconformity for (example1 in ourdiscussion of tautologyabove) this gives us by far the best handle we now have on the measurement the value attachedto approval(and to conformity). course,in of Of takingthe relationas the empiricaland conceptualunit,we foregothe rightto explainthe individual'sbehaviorin termsof his own values. But whatimportant insight we lose when we give up thissortof "explanation?" do

The Social Exchange Relation

Based on the above discussion the primacy the social relation, is now clear of it of thatHomans should have includedthebehaviorof Skinner along withthatof the pigeon.Sociologists shouldfind pigeon'sbehaviorinteresting whenviewed the only within integral the whichin factthepigeonsharedwithProfessor exchange relation Skinner.Justas the pigeon developedand repeatedhis peckingbehaviorunder and repeated style his reinforcement Skinner, Skinner from so continuing developed ofexperimentation in of reinforcement theform patterned undercontinuing pigeon mediumthroughwhich a behavior.The SkinnerBox providedthe interaction reciprocalsocial relationdevelopedovertimebetweenthe subjectand the experimentor. That social relation, is minimalas it mightbe in some respects, a good thatinstudying exampleofwhatwillbe calledan exchange relation, meaning simply



the relationwe pay special attention the reciprocalflowof valued behavior to betweenthe participants. Words such as transaction and exchangeimply-quite correctly-thatthe flowis inherently reciprocal. ElsewhereI have recommended (Emerson 1972b) thatwe adopt the expression as for exchangerelations, whereA and B are actors Axi; ByJ a notation identifying (either personsor corporate groups), and wherex and y are "resources" introduced intoexchangeby A and B, respectively. understand We thatx,is operant behavior on A's part,whichmeans nothing morethan the defining thatits continued fact is performance contingent upon (at leastoccasionally) from whichis, simultayj B, neously, defining establishing as a reinforcer rewardforA. While a the fact yj or relation whichyjis also an operant symmetrical (in reinforced x,) is notlogically by required, theory suggests thatempirical instances purely of unilateral rewardwill be extremely in rareand transitory nature.(See Emerson1972bon social power.) The basic elements theoperant of format research listedabove shouldbe reexaminednow,fortheypointup someofthefeatures exchange of relations takenas units of analysis.They entaila longitudinal seriesof transactions between two identified parties.The conceptof reinforcement defined above requiresa seriesof x and y transactions. This longitudinal is feature social exchangerelations important, of as we shall see, specifically because mosteconomictheory systematically ignoresit! Basic Concepts I have postponeda reviewof basic conceptsin orderfirst establish relation to the as the unit of analysis. We may now examinebasic conceptswith the explicit that most of themare employedas analytictools withinsuch exunderstanding changerelations. The vocabularyof social exchangetheory today-reward, reinforcement, cost, value, utility, resource, comparison level,transaction, profit, outcome,etc-is an blendofordinary of unconsolidated vocabularies research speechand thetechnical and disciplines, notablypsychology economics.But despitetheredundant arrayof and theirmeaning fairly is stable. are words,thebasic conceptions fewin number in as Reinforcement, defined Part I, is clearlythe most simpleand fundamental for pointof departure mostof the otherconcepts. with but 1. For example, reward virtually a is synonymous a positive reinforcement, of withthe added connotation beingsociallyadministered. of a is 2. Similarly, resource an ability, or possession, otherattribute an actorgiving him the capacity to reward(or punish) anotherspecified actor. Any ability
in involvedin the exchangeof x and y differs different 2Thecharacter the contingency of noncontingent "gift" of x, On modes of social interaction. one extremeis the seemingly in either timeor occurring a separateact by A whichhas no easilyapparentconnection, as within social relation a reciprocating by B, yetis performed act in intention, any specific to prescribes thaty will occasionallyoccur. This is the thatis sustainedby y,,or normatively of discussedat length Sahlins(1963, 1965),Gouldner(1960), and by pattern social reciprocity process or joint-decision is bargaining, other others.At the otherextreme overtnegotiation, thatlinksx and y in a one-to-one pairingto formconcretetransactions.



otherpersons withspecific onlyin relations possessedby PersonA is a resource or are resources not possessions atspeaking, strictly who value it. Therefore, of of tributes individualactors,but rathertheyare attributes the relationship betweenactors. thanvalue.Yet, again,itsbasic or 3. No conceptis moreimportant moreconfusing The clear, and can be statedbest in termsof reinforcement. meaningis fairly of value of a unit of some stimulus(x or y) is the magnitude reinforcement by affected thatunit.We use the termvalue whendealingwithreinforcement as a scalar variable. fromHomans (1961). Economistshave of I take this conception value directly in the to employedthe concept of utility referring essentially same notion:the derives an value (i.e. amountof reinforcement) individual psychological subjective akinto someunit statusofutility, the Aside from subjective a from good or service. meaning assignedthrough as operational of satisfaction, comparedwiththepurely between I difference utility value,as and theoperant format, knowofno important the latteris employedhere. in derivative resulting four elaborated, The value ofa unitof SR has beenfurther called comparison or worth mentioning: valuethresholds standards, (a) conceptions and of levelsby Thibaut & Kelley; (b) the phenomenon satiation-deprivation the ordersand (c) utility; preference marginal economicconceptofdiminishing related or and (d) the conceptof cost; notablyrewardsforegone, the value hierarchies; economics;and aversivestimulation. costs from notionof opportunity over a LEVELS (CL) The amountof SR obtainedper transaction COMPARISON source becomes,over time,a with a givenenvironmental series of transactions allowance a neutral pointon thescale ofvalue forSR. (For example, child'sweekly be dutiesor generalgood behaviormight X dollars. from parentsforspecified his from The child,aftervalue adaptationto thatlevel,will act as thoughdepartures than X itself). X carrygreater value, positiveor negative, authors has by The adaptationlevelforvaluedstimuli been recognized different in different ways. Baron (1966) writesabout a standardof social reinforcement to for of normor frame reference, responding the behavior formed an internal as of of others.Homans (1961) speaksof theexpression angerwhenSR occursbelow was discussions and mostfully developed level.One ofthebestknown theexpected levels(CL). The offered Thibaut& Kelley(1959) underthenameof comparison by of of conceptplays a crucialrole in theirdiscussion theevaluation thedyad by its members. The value of a unitof any typeof reinMARGINAL UTILITY" "DIMINISHING received(or of forcerSR is a decreasingfunction the numberof unitsrecently in psycalled satiation-deprivationbehavioral currently possessed).This principle, stimulus part as rewarding every describing is generalization chology, an empirical The organism acts in or a system. of a feedback system, cybernetic, self-regulating or and playing, stimulasucha wayas to avoidbothunder- overeating-ordrinking, is concept principle the interesting tion in general.Lurkingbehindthisempirical



of need-a conceptthat,in myopinion,we should developrather thanderogate. Meanwhile,the empirical generalization extremely is general.For example,social approval is consideredby Homans and othersto be an important generalized reinforcer. has been shownto be morereinforcing persons It to relatively deprived of it thanto personsmoresatiatedwithapproval(Erickson1962),despitethe fact thatgeneralized reinforcers thought be less subjectto satiation are to effects. the In experiment Crosbiedescribed by above,it was shownthatnotebooks students for are subjectto diminishing utility. Students "need" some,but not many.
COST If rewardis the mostcommonword,cost is the mosttroublesome wordin the exchangevocabulary.It has two basic meanings:

1. Cost in the formof aversivestimuliencountered a social transaction in (e.g. painfulor boring"work" performed) 2. "Cost" in theform rewards of foregone (e.g. timeand effort couldhavebeen that spentotherwise, some othervalued return). for In economictheorythe analysisof cost is fairly simplebecause in practiceonly meaning(2) is involved, through conceptof opportunity the costs. But social exwiththeir changetheorists, concern psychology, another for add troublesome layer of meaning. Consideran ordinary example.A personhurriessix blocks through heavy a rainstorm meeta friend a tavern. enters to in He wetand laughing, spendsan hour or so and thengoes homeby bus to dinner.He could have takenthe bus straight home,avoidingthe rain and enjoying book and a solitary a glass of wine before dinner.Now, most exchangetheorists social psychology in (Thibaut & Kelley, Homans,maybeBlau) writeas thoughsuch an episodeinvolved choicebetween a thetwo pathsof action,whichcan be analyzedin some hedonistic calculus.Thus, in cl r, - cl - c2 < 0; wherer, is the rewardof a friend a tavern, is the aversive in cost of running the rainand c2 = r2,the reward(foregone) a book withwine. of We cannotrepeatthediscussion rationality, of tautology, reductionism, and but all of thoseissues riseagain withtheconceptof cost. If we assumethatsocial life proceedsas a flowof choicesmade by individuals ("shall I go straight hometo my
book or shall I meet my friend,or ... or . .. ?"), then our theory is trapped into

the above hedonisticcalculus. If we assume instead that social life consistsof longitudinal social relations forming, and maintaining changing, over time,then feature the above examplecan be seen in a different of every slant.Is a runin the rain"costly"whenitis experienced within long-term a If friendship?3a driving rain
3When ratpressesa lever, pigeonpecksa diskor a man runsin therain,is that"costly" a a effort is itrewarding or exercise? has beenshownthatbothratsand pigeons It prefer "work" to fortheir foodrather thaneat free food(Neuringer 1969,Carter& Berkowitz 1970). Similarly puzzlingbehavioraboundsat thehumanlevel.Cognitive dissonancetheory developeda has lineofresearch arounda similar phenomenon, callingit effort justification. pointis simply My this:we are profoundly ignorant about thenatureofrewards and costs-and we shall remain so untilvalue is studiedas a dependent variable.



forcesme to cancel a plannedmeeting, much rewardbeen foregone has whenthe friendship continues through other meetings? Does thebookand wineforegone add "cost" to the friendship, whenthebook and winehas its own long-term timeand place?4 With the exchange relationas the unit of analysis,we see an actor engaged in simultaneously numerous exchangerelations, each competing withsome of the othersfora commitment resources. suspectthata value hierarchy of I formsto regulatesuch commitment resources. of ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL EXCHANGE THEORY

We alreadyhave, in economictheory, fairly a well-developed theory exchange. of Need anthropologists sociologists and formulate anotherone? Is social exchange theory simply borrowing concepts from the economics-changing words,perhaps, and applying themin different but situations, makingno fundamental theoretical contributions? While it is too earlyto offer definitive answersto thesequestions, believethat I a profound difference beginning emerge, is to clearlyseparating social fromeconomicexchange theory. difference, argue,stems The I will from conceptual the units ofanalysisemployed-longitudinal relations versus exchange ahistorical individual decisions. The difference bestbe seen,however, thatmostimportant can in invention of economics,the conceptof the competitive market a theoretical as construct.

The "Market"as Simplifying Concept

As Firth(1967:5) has observed, "market"is used in threeways:the marketplaces where manypeopleassemble engageintransactions; market somespecified to the for good or service;and the market process
... implying allocationof resourcesby references impersonal the to criteria which disregard personaltiesand social ends in favorof an immediate maximization principle of profitmaking. is thisconceptwhichhas beenselectedparticularly distinction It for as thecriterion the of separating types economicsystems studiedby economists from those studiedby anthropologists.

What Firthsaysforanthropology trueforsociology well.Economictheory is as is heavily organizedarounda setofassumptions-theperfectly market competitive -which social exchangedoes not make.Those assumptions, statedby Perroux as (1950:190) requirethat
... goods and services are and and exchanged homogeneous perfectly indefinitely divisible; iftheymovewithout resistance friction or within one industry from or one industry to another, underthe influence an alteration the level of theirremuneration of in ... 4Myconcernhereis thatconceptssuch as opportunity or rewardforegone, cost borrowed from scienceofdecisions a (economics), might require majormodification whenimported into a scienceof longitudinal social relations (social exchangetheory).



are construct disallowedin thismarket or The major source of resistance friction of by thevery personaltiesand social endsreferenced Firthas features theexchange Those personaltiesare, of course,attributes processesstudiedby anthropologists. be thatcan hardly set aside or assumedaway by exchangerelations of longitudinal as builtas it is upon relations the majorconceptualunit. social exchangetheory, that "Real" socialstructures profound. is of The consequence thisdifferencefairly do-constitute the market-and moststructures from perfect deviatesubstantially attempts in troublesome imperfections economicanalysis.Wheneconomicanalysis loses much of its powerand economictheory those imperfections, to incorporate toseems to be forming specifically social exchangetheory elegance.By contrast, is, social structures-that social strucwardtheanalysisofsuch realbutimperfect between relations people,in whichpoweris neither long-term turesinvolving fairly (see Rothschild1971 implies competition as diffuse equallydistributed, perfect nor on the absence of powerin neoclassicaleconomictheory). we separateon the conceptof market, If economicand social exchangetheory First,whatdoes the conceptdo foreconomictheory? mustaddresstwo questions. in incorporate its place? Second, what mightsocial exchangetheory analysis: (1968:2) givesus a fine the Coddington On thefirst question, economist
with it In thetheory markets has been possibleto deal theoretically theinteraction of characterthateach one actsin an "environment" ofmanyeconomicactorsbysupposing behaviorof all remaining actors... This of ized by some representations the aggregate in involvhas enlightening circumstances approachto micro-economics beenparticularly thatprocesses involving however, of inga largenumber economicunits.It is well-known, whicharisefrom problems of onlya smallnumber economicunitspose manytheoretical of the much stronger interdependence the actors...

manageable marketprocess,theoretically In the economictheoryof competitive called a market. otherparty a is simplicity achievedby conceiving depersonalized come market assumption the achievedthrough simplifying The analyticvirtues actors. between interdependent cannotdeal withexchange at a highcost:thetheory Two immensefieldsof studyare leftforothertheoriesto contendwith:(1) the actors(called an exchange interdependent exchangebetween processof interactive social structures among larger relation here); who are located in (2) imperfect of actors. numbers interdependent

Exchangein BilateralMonopoly
thatit failsto handle the mostsimplesocial It is a paradox of economictheory in the structure, dyad. This is a paradox onlybecause the dyad is too important It has and to economics be ignored, therefore beengivena lotofattention. is treated as isolatedexchangeor bilateralmonopoly.
manyactors,he may regardthe refaces a marketinvolving When the monopolist by sponses. . . as quite adequatelyrepresented a demandcurve... However,whenthe he is monopolist faced with a monopolist, is no longerconcernedwith an aggregate faces anotherdecision maker.We have responseto his decisions ... the monopolist arrivedat the old economicproblemof the theoryof bilateralmonopolyor "isolated exchange."(Coddington1968:4).



whenone actorfacesanother thanthestatistical regulariactor,rather The problem in is tiesof the market describably demandcurves,is thattheexchange indeterminate.
but As Pen has pointedout,it is nottheoutcomewhichis indeterminate the(economic) thatwe cannotachievea proper ... of seemsto imply theory The existence indeterminacy introducing further actors) without understanding exchangeamonginterdependent (of framework. (Coddington1968:11). conceptsinto the theoretical

of underdiscussion here The condition isolatedexchangeor bilateralmonopoly is, of course,the elementary exchangerelationrepresented above as Ax: By. The to the of indeterminacy referred is theinability economictheory specify exchange to ratiox/y;to predictwho will get how much;to describeor explainthe pricethat x further conceptsmust of indicates, resource will have in terms y. As Coddington by be introducedinto the theory.The additionalconceptsintroduced him are for and aboutother's demands a seriesofdatesin thefuture, thetesting expectations as of and revising those expectations time(and sequentialactions)flowby. to than the Thus an economistattempting deal withthe social relationrather of the most essentialfeature social relationis forcedto introduce actor-market as or characabove:their developmental longitudinal exchangerelations conceived conceivesare similar Thibaut& Kelley's to ter.The expectations thatCoddington ways. "comparisonlevel," althoughthe two conceptsare used in quite different relations, picksup precisely theory, focusing uponexchange Thus social exchange seemsto flounder. theproblem Is of economic theory wheretraditional competitive in of monopoly and oligopoly, indeterminacy, encountered theeconomics bilateral solvablewithinsocial exchangetheory?

The Exchange Ratio x/y

in theory date to topicofresearch social exchange Without doubt,themostcentral of ratiox/y. indeterminate) exchange has beenthedetermination the(economically in It corresponds price determination economics. to

of we Before discussing determinants x/ydirectly, shouldrecallthatwe are discussUnliketheahistoric between sameparties. the inga continuing seriesoftransactions in whentwo personsinteract overa periodof timeencounter economictheory, can call "emergent," or expectto-the exchangerelation takeon whatBlau might attracor simply For of attributes. example,attitudes interpersonal developmental, extion will formbetweenpersonswho repeatedly rewarding engagein mutually change(Byrne& Rhamey1965,Lott& Lott 1969),addinga wholenewdimension in the thatresults x/y. to therelationship-onethatlikely affects bargaining process develGermainto thispoint,Meeker(1971) and Cook (1975a) have separately in thatis especially oped an approachto decisionmaking social exchangerelations of of the worthy note. In any situationin whichactions will affect distribution rules.An exchange anyone ofa variety exchange of rewards, personmayemploy a that among definition thesituation forms of ruleor a distribution is a normative rule or is adoptedby theparticipants an exchangerelation. is amongtheemergent in It



rulethat For is attributes exchangerelations. example,"rationality an exchange of his or assignsto P theoutcomethatmaximizes totalpayoff." again. . . "Group-gain is an exchangerulethatassignsthemaximum value to thesumofP's and O's total Other exorientation.") pay-offs." (This correspondsto Parsons's "collectivity and competition, reciprocity, status changerulesdiscussedby Meekerare altruism, in consistency. The lattertwo have features commonwithequityand distributive justice. Her list is not meantto be finalor exhaustive. In myopinion,through generalidea of an exchangerule,Meekerhas made the Whether not people are rational or a real contribution social exchangetheory. to and eqRather,rationality (and altruism needs no longerhamperour discussions. take, depending upon the social uity) are seen as orientations people sometimes She has brought time-honored the notionofthe relation theyhave witheach other. In of of definition the situation intothe framework exchangetheory. doingso, an thatgenerate specific important of research openedup: whatare thefactors line is of exchangerules as normative attributes exchangerelations? topicsin thisfield-equityand distributive The singlemost heavilyresearched upon x/y. The researchis far too justice-are the two that bear most directly it to here.However,I think well to assert extensive permit review a summary a or ruleamongothers, thatequity at as shouldbe viewed, leasttentatively, oneexchange as Cook has suggested.
OF TRADE One mightobject to the above SAHLINS ON THE "DIPLOMACY" rule ruleor Cook's distribution changethe discussion. Does notMeeker'sexchange A If between wholeproblemof economicdeterminacy? an equityruleis operating y and B, thenA is nottrying maximize as was assumedin theeconomicproblem to of bilateralmonopoly. is morethan game,but the difference little True,we are dealingwitha different the longitudinal versusthe cross-sectional game of a aspect of exchangerelations Short-run versuslong-run gains separatethe two. singlemarkettransaction. the our underInteresting workby Sahlins (1965) illuminates point,deepening of normative attributes social exstanding distribution of rulesas developmental of observations change relations.His first point(1965:96) concernsethnographic

x/y: ... mostexchanges-whether gift-giving, mutualaid, sale,barter, coercive presents as similar or whatever-do not take place at uniform rates.Thereis a wide indeterminacy; This indeterratiosin different transactions. goods move againsteach otherat different fact exchange. minacyof ratesis the characteristic of primitive

Sahlins markets, Since most of thesetransactions take place in grossly imperfect above-the reflect indeterminacy the mentioned observes thatsuch variation might indeterminant outcomeof bargaining.
an is amongprimitive strategy Unfortunately, however, bargaining toomarginal exchange of It to peoplesto bear theexplanation ratevariations. is unknown mostofthem.Among to societiesthat do practiceit, haggling typically marginaltransaction, a restricted is in strangers considered and disreputable the inter-community between deals comparative innersocial sphereswhereexchangeis mostintense.



Separatingin-groupexchangefromexternaltrade,Sahlins sees two clear but different patterns, describable one ofCook's distribution as rules.The ruleoperative betweenpersonsclose in kinshipand residential distanceis called reciprocity in economicanthropology. is in thatsphere It whereexchange ratesvarywidely under the rule "to each accordingto need,fromeach accordingto capacity." Meanwhile, external in trade, transactions undera distribution ofequality rule are operative. Each transaction one ofa seriesbetween is members a tradefriendship of or partnership. Under such conditions(describedmore fullyby Sahlins), each transaction mustpreserve solidarity the builtby previous transactions prepare and thegroundforfuture transactions. a result, As strictly economicrelations develop an ethicand a diplomacyas partof a bargaining process.Thus,
The economicratiois a diplomatic maneuver. requires good deal oftacton thepart "It a of everyone concerned," Radcliffe-Brown as wroteof Andamaneseinterband exchange, "to avoid theunpleasantness mayariseifa manthinks that thathe has notreceived things as valuableas he has given. . ." (1948:42) The people mustliterally come to terms. The rate of exchangetakeson functions a peace treaty. of Not to say that intergroup exchangesimplyservesthe "moral purpose" of making friends. whatever intent, however But the and utilitarian, willnotdo to makeenemies. it -As it turnsout,the safeand sane procedure notjust measureformeasure-exactly is balanced reciprocity. The most tactful strategy economicgood measure,a baker's is dozen, of whichtherecan be no complaints. The tendency becomesover-reciprocation (p. 104).

There emergesin longitidinal relations-ifthe partiesenjoya balance of power -equity and even a touchof altruism exchangerules.For experimental as studies on a similarpoint,see Berkowitz Daniels (1964) and Jones(1969). &
KUHN, PEN, AND EMERSON ON POWER Withineconomicsproper, much discussionof indeterminacy the x/yratioconcludesthatit is a problem power. in of Kuhn (1963) formulated clear and verygeneralconception bargaining a of power in theA-B relation, showing further hisformulation similar myowntheory to that is ofpower-dependence in and also to otherformulations economics. relations, similar Sometimeearlier, Pen (1959:112),writing labor-management on negotiation (which he sees as a problem bilateral in whenlaboris organized) monopoly was also moved to formulate problemas a powerprocess: the

Now thesacrifice whichB makesbyretaining good is obviously the morethan nothing the dependenceof B on A. Therefore economicpoweris based on the extent which to thesubjectto be overcome dependent the "powerful" is on and on theextent to subject, whichthe "powerful"subjectis independent the subjectto be overcome. of

Bargaining power,like social powerin general, the potential influence is to others' action(e.g. yieldmorey or accept less x per unitof y). But again,our concernis theseriesof transactions thatcomprise ongoingsocial relation. an Our hypothesis would be: If the relationis unbalancedin powerto A's advantage, thenx/ywill decreaseacross continuing transactions untileitherpoweris balanced or x/yhas decreasedto the subsistence levelforB. (By the subsistence levelI mean the point



or whether migration, by starvation, loss of at whichB departsfromthe relation, for includestwo points: capacityto producemorey.) The rationale thishypothesis way; and relative dependency (and power)in a predictable (a) changesin x/yafter but (b) ifA has thepowerto reducex/y, does notdo so, he willderiveless reward and distributhe thanwillB. Therefore, equity and/ormorecost from A-B relation As to tivejustice do not stand in opposition power use or exploitation. a result, moraljustifications theuse of social powerare easilyfashionedfor self-righteous the "whiteman's burden"and similarrationales. analysisofthefamous context, Epstein(1967) givesus a fine In an ethnographic how it happensthatx/y(the proportion of Jajmani villagesystem India, showing evolved to a by of agricultural yield turnedback to landowners tenantfarmers) For an experimental studyof a similar level fortenantfarmers. near-subsistence processsee Stolte& Emerson(1976).

and researchthat deals in one way or anotherwiththe social interactive theory to processrelating thex/yratio.Wheretheabove topicsdeal morewithattributes etc-this workdeals with ofexchangerelations-decisionrules, power-dependence, techniques We internal interactive processes. can listbuta few:compliance-gaining & 1964,Schmitt Marwell1969), 1965,Schmitt (Bandura 1969,Marwell& Schmitt Blumstein Stein & Beckhouse, 1965,1966,1969;Weinstein, altercasting, (Weinstein 1963; Weinstein& Wiley 1969); ingratiation 1968; Weinstein& Deutschberger & Gergen& Jones Gergen, Gumpert Thibaut1965;Jones, (Jones1964, 1965;Jones, 1963, Davis 1965; Jones,Stires,Schaver & Harris 1968, Stires& Jones 1969); and (Goffman1970; Gergen& Taylor management self-presentation impression 1969; Barth 1966). of concerns emergence normsand the highinterest Finally,a topicof especially fromstrategic infromthe bargaining contracts process.It entailsthe transition to See teraction normatively regulated exchange. Thibaut& Kelley(1959) on social norms, along withThibaut& Faucheux(1965); Thibaut(1968); Thibaut& Gruder & (1969); Murdock (1967); Murdock & Rosen (1970); and Michener,Griffith Palmer(1971).

there a large rather and is scattered of body Finally,


as of and Our discussion exchangetheory, dwelling ithas uponpsychological utility social analysis.Indeed,theliterahas microscopic theory foundations, emphasized the withThibaut& Kelley,Homans,and Blau is almostexclusively tureidentified social processes.However,despitethis social psychological analysisof elementary has in, at recent concentration the microlevel,social exchangetheory origins and is now returning the macrolevelof societalanalysis.Ellis (1971), in his recent to, to as of examination the Hobbesian problemof order,refers exchangetheory an Simiand theory. approachon thesame levelwithstructural-functionalism conflict as and larly,Clark (1972) discussesfunctionalism exchangetheory parallel-and to Coleman'swork(1972, complementary-approaches macrolevelsocial analysis. of as a form exchangeand poweranalysis, does Burt 1973) puts forth macro-level



(1976). Cook (1975b) has begunan exchangeapproachto interorganizational research. The gap between Homan's elementary processes and,say,Lenski's(1966) descriptionofpowerand resource in distribution totalsocieties cannot bridged a single be in extension exchangetheory moremacroscopic span. Even so, the step-by-step of to levelsis clearlythe most important of continued line theory construction.

"Elementary" Social Behavior

The transition from microto macrotheory mustbeginwithan explicit recognition offeatures distinguishing twolevels.Thereappear to be three. the First,Homans's in social behavior subinstitutional thatit-the behavior-is seenas "elementary" is as governedby the preferences individuals distinct of fromthe prescriptions or mandates enveloping of forms. socialgroups social structural or (See Needham1962 foran analysisof microversusmacro exchangeof womenin termsof preference versus prescription.) an individual's If actionsin an exchange process institutionare ally required,one mightask how reward/cost analysiscan inform about the us process;yet,ifvalued resources exchanged are through prescribed behavior, somerewardis surelyinvolved. thingresembling The above problem-exchangethrough prescribed behavior-might come down to thequestionof who is rewarded. This leads to the secondfeature elementary of as exchange:the actor involvedis usuallytreatedas an autonomousindividual, distinct from social persons(i.e. roleoccupants).When corporate groupsand from a woman is exchangedforgoods in the institution marriage, of local lineagesas corporategroups are the actors involved(Leach 1951). Those collectiveactors realize rewardsand expendpooled resources through negotiations carriedout by role-playing agentsof thegroup.Thus, in some measurewe alreadyhave concepts available to us (in role theory)to deal with prescribed exchangeand collective actors. thatis mosttroublesome: is it It is the thirdfeature microexchangetheory of social processesunder studyby Homans are not dyadic. While the elementary -the and proposition introduced-moveus necessarily dyadic,thetheoryconcepts transactions. same is trueofBlau's (1964a) major The to theanalysisof two-party contribution. While obviouslyconcernedwith the analysis of exchangeamong of those potentially largenumbers people,thebasic conceptshe employs, including drawnfromeconomics(e.g. indifference curves),inclineone to reducethe social to Economictheory situation a setofdyadictransactions. offers aggregated analysis of such a set of sociallyseparatetwo-party transactions. thatdeneeds a set of conceptsand principles Clearly,social exchangetheory the social structures-structures that scribe linkage exchange of relations larger into willdo forsocial exchange similar whatthecompetitive to market theory something does foreconomicexchangetheory.

From 2- to N-Party Exchange: Corporate Groups and Exchange Networks

I have suggestedelsewhere(Emerson 1969, 1972b) that two verydifferent yet distinctions complementary help to extendsystematic analysisfromexchangein



One of these is productive exchange,usefulin dyads to largersocial structures. solving, division labor,(Emerson1968) and corpothe of discussing groupproblem among exchangerelations, rate groups.The otheris the conceptof connections structures. leadingto the analysisof exchangenetwork Kuhn (1963) EXCHANGE The economist PROCESS AS "PRODUCTIVE" bothsmall and large-e.g. social groups, has made the claim thatmostorganized committees, legislative bodies,etc-are based upon families, businesscorporations, To the singlegenericprocessthatin economicsis called production. examinethe character thisprocessKuhn's own exampleis worthrepeating: of Suppose that personA has bread as resourceX, and personB has cheese as Underthese Y. resource Let bothA and B value Z, whereZ is a cheesesandwich. Ax:By. conditions exchangesof x fory will occur in a typicalexchangerelation, respective sandwiches. fashion eat their and After exchange the bothA and B might it Call this familiarprocess simple exchange,to distinguish fromthe following making productive exchange.Instead of exchanging1 x for 2 y and separately and A jointly manufacture sandwiches, thendivideup sandwiches, and B might Z, Z. For example, village in produced. theproduct Some "Z" can onlybe collectively technology, graincould be of India priorto the introduction modernagricultural severalclasses of including by producedmosteffectively a totalvillagecommunity, in all of system cultivators severalcategories artisans, cooperating an exchange and group,itsmemThe villageoperatedas a corporate knownas thejagmani system. in of bersbound together a special form exchange. exchange.Unlike the direct That type of exchangecan be called productive of transfer valued items in simple exchange,here itemsof value are produced the of a social process.In general, separateresources two or through value-adding a a morepersons,A, B, C, ... N, are combinedthrough social processinvolving is be division labor. The result a valuedproductthatmight divisible of (like grain) through simpleexchangeto a or among all producers, that mightbe converted divisiblemedium(money) and distributed by among members some distribution rule (see Cook, above.)

accommodates EXCHANGE The idea ofproductive exchange readily NETWORKS fromits dyadicformat. of freeing exchangetheory largenumbers actors,thereby within to distribution addressed resource exchange uniquely is However, productive viewedas "actors" in simpleexcorporate groups.Such groupscan be properly change processes.Examples are Leach's local lineagegroupsin the exchangeof of (Emersystem theMughalempire women, corporate villagesin theland revenue son 1976), etc. Therefore, is essentialin macro exchangetheorythat simple it exchangealso be analyzedbeyondthe dyad. or three moreactors; Thus we come to thenotion exchange of networks involving withgroups.Networks tie structured thatare notto be confused exchangesystems social exchange as bothgroupsand individuals actors.Some oftheearliest together sinceon the"Kula dealtwithsuch networks-Malinowski (1922) and others theory in cross-cousin marriage "ciron ring";Levi-Strauss (1969) and others matrilateral cles."



These two examplesof network structure worthdescribing. are The Kula is an intertribal exchangeofnecklaces armlets for between communities inhabiting ring a of islands.If one partydoes not giveto anotherwhat the otherhas givento him -like not returning Christmas to its senderone yearlater;and iftheitemis a gift not perishableor consumable, thenit followsof necessity that:(a) the exchange system be "closed" or cyclic;and (b) one itemwillflow will alwaysin one direction counterto the direction anotheritem.So it is withthe Kula "ring." of Similarly, matrilateral in cross-cousin marriage, lineagecannotreceivewomen a from lineageit giveswomento. The origins functions thismarriage a or of rulehave been hotlydebated-in a debateof greatrelevance our interest microversus to in macro theory(see Needham 1962; Homans & Schneider1955, Ekeh 1974). But whatever origin, its someofitsstructural implications clear:marriage are networks will formcircles,with women flowing one direction. in (As an exchangeitem, womencannotbe "consumed"becauseofincest and exogamy rules.)But whatother itemflowsagainstwomen?Need therebe one? Ekeh (1974) would like to believethatsocial exchangeis not grossly utilitarian, and therefore that gifts(necklaces,women,etc) that flowin a circleneed notindeed,should not-have objectsof material worthflowing otherway. In fact, the he would prefer that nothing flowthe otherway, because if it does, the favored generalizedexchangeof the extendednetwork mightdissolveinto the restricted exchangeof two-party mutualreward, witha loss of groupsolidarity and otherdirected morality. In fact, however, suchnetworks tendto be composedoflinked two-way exchange relations. Objectsof greatmaterial value are often exchanged wives, for bothitems around the circle.The important flowing studiesin alliancetheory not depend do upon nonutilitarian and theydo involvethe exchangeof honor,status, exchange, and power(Leach 1951). With such networks the above to illustrate as the idea, the generaltopic of network forms and structures standsopen as a mostfruitful ofresearch.5 lot A line of researchon exchangenetworks now going on. In the laboratory is Stolte & Emerson (1976) haveshownpowertobe a function position network in of structures
'Far morecommonthantherings cyclesdescribed and aboveare centralized structures. tree For example,Sahlins (1963) describesthe typical"big man" pattern anthropology a in as network the poolingand redistribution resources. for of Barth's (1959a) studyof political leadership Swat could be analyzedas such a structure. in Sahlins's notioncan be viewedas a centrally organizedsystem what ethologists of study in underthe label of "reciprocalaltruism" loweranimal species.A giveshelp, B whenB to is in need,and at cost to A. If and whenA needs help and C, D ... N is around,one will provideit-again, with no assuranceof return. However,the geneticline common to A through is givena survivaladvantagethrough N such "reciprocalaltruism." In Sahlins's discussion, reciprocity a humanexchangesystem as functions same way, the butitoccursonlyamongpersons with It closekinship distance. might a backupor regulated be by kin groupauthority structures. When the groupis larger, centrally a managedsystem of taxationand relief may emerge, outlinedin Sahlins'spoolingand redistributing as network structure.



ofvariousshapes.Burt(1976) givesus mathematical modelsofpowerand position in community structure viewedas an exchangenetwork. utilizesdata provided He byLauman & Pappi (1976). Emerson (1972a) has suggested directions substanthat tive exchangenetwork theory can take in examining such topicsas social class, and stratification, divisionof labor. for Waiting suchsubstantive theory catchup is a bodyofavailablemathematics to in the formof graphtheory and network theory. CONCLUDING COMMENT

"Exchangetheory" notto be takenas a theory. is Rather,it is a frame reference of thattakesthe movement valued things of social processas its (resources)through thata resource continue will focus.As I see it,itsscope is defined an assumption: by to flowonly if thereis a valued return contingent upon it. Psychologists this call returnreinforcement-economists contincontingent simplycall thisreciprocally gentflowexchange. In reviewing recent the literature social exchangeone finds on conceptual confuin sion and debate concerning issuesof tautology, rationality social behavior, and in This confusion reductionism thestrategy explanation. of has, I believe, seriously retarded empirical research. The confusion stems, againin myopinion, from use the in sociologyof conceptsbornin theanalysisof individual actionsand decisions.I in recommend thatlongitudinal social relations-exchange relations thiscase-be consciously employedas the unitof analysis. Withsuch a unit it is thenpossibleto deal developmentally withstructures of interaction between continuing parties-corporate groupsand their role-occupying bothcorporate members; networks and involving manyactors, groups and individuals. It is preciselysocial structures this sort that violate the assumptions of of and oligopoly theoil indusin neoclassicaleconomics(e.g. "vertical organization" as the try).Thus, I like to thinkof social exchangetheory developing conceptual and network to toolsneeded(longitudinal exchangerelations structures) deal with has with:market thosetopicsthateconomics exactly theory trouble imperfections.
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EMERSON Thibaut,J., Kelley, H. H. 1959. The Social of New York:Wiley Psychology Groups. In rationality. Walkins,J. 1970. Imperfect Sciences, Explanationin theBehavioral ed. R. Borger,F. Cioffi, 167-217. pp. Univ. Press Cambridge:Cambridge Weinstein,E. A. 1965. The applied art of one-downsmanship.Trans-Action Vol. 2 of Weinstein, A. 1966. Toward a theory E. In in tactics. Problems Sointerpersonal ed. cial Psychology, C. Backman,P. Secord. New York: McGraw-Hill control E. Weinstein, A. 1969. Interpersonal StateUniv.NY, StonyBrook processes. Weinstein, A., Beckhouse,L. S., BlumE. P. R. stein, W., Stein, B. 1968.Interperof conditions gain under sonalstrategies or loss. J. Pers. 36:616-34 P. Weinstein,E. A., Deutschberger, 1963. of SociSome dimensions altercasting. 4:454-66 ometry P. E. Weinstein, A., Deutschberger, 1964. in Tasks, bargainsand identities social interaction. Soc. Forces42:451-56 Weinstein, A., DeVaughan,W. L., Wiley, E. M. C. 1969. Obligation and theflowof deference in exchange. Sociometry: 1-12 M. Weinstein, A., Wiley, G. 1969.ObligaE. in tion and the flowof deference ex32:1-12 change.Sociometry A. Whitten, E., Wolfe, W. 1971.Network N. analysis. In The Handbook of Social ed. and Cultural Anthropology, J. J. Honigman.Chicago: Rand McNally compariWolfe,A. W. 1970a. On structural Can. Rev. Sociol.Ansons of networks. 7:226-44 thropol. A. analysis. Wolfe, W. 1970b.Social network ed. In CreativeAnthropology, J. A. Price. In press J. B., Berger, Anderson, CoJ., Zelditch, Jr., hen,B. P. 1970. Equitablecomparison. Pac. Sociol. Rev. Winter:19-26.

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