The aim of the book is to understand social structure by understanding the processes that govern the associations among people.
The book is an attempt to provide a foundation, a first step, in a broader theory of social organization. To do so, PMB needs to identify the basic elements of social association. He uses social exchange as this basis.
Put another way, he want to link theories of everyday life to theories of wider social structure, to bridge the 'micro-macro' divide.
The purpose of the analysis of interpersonal relations is to derive from the analysis a better understanding of the complex structure of associations among men. (p.2)
In such a program, one needs to avoid both over abstraction and too much reduction. Reductionism ignores the emergent properties of a social system -- the characteristics of a system that are only observable at the system level. Over abstraction leads to untestable theories and, more importantly, complex theories of social life need to be grounded in simple explanations.
What are emergent properties?
They are the relations among elements in a structure. They could not exist without the structure, but neither are they found in the elements alone. The age distribution, for example, is not captured by an individual's age.Exchange is conceived of as a social process of central significance in social life, derived from simpler processes (of attraction, for example) that do not concern us here, that then leads to more complex processes (among groups, for example).
Because sociology seeks to understand the relations among people, we are always concerned with emergent properties.
The concept of social exchange directs attention to the emergent property in interpersonal relations.
PMB points out that a person for whom another has done a favor is expected to express gratitude & return a service when the occasion arises.
The quality of a social relation is the joint product of both parties, and thus cannot be reduced to a quality of just one person.
Social exchange may reflect any behavior oriented to socially mediated goals. People act rationally, and often employ exchange in pursuit of rational ends. For example, among members of a political organization, they may exchange support to build solidarity, or, lovers may do things for each other to gain commitment in the relationship.
Chapter 1.The structure of social associations.
"To speak of social life is to speak of the associations between people."
Blau's 'Guiding Principle' for understanding social relations "is that the analysis of social associations, of the processes governing them, and the forms they assume is the central task of sociology."
He recognizes that associations between individuals tend to become organized
into complex structures, often institutionalized to perpetuate the for
of organization beyond the life span of human beings.
We study interaction to understand how this happens, in this book, Blau (PMB) focuses on the structure of social associations.'
[read the last paragraph of this section closely]
The exchange of social rewards
Also, social action can be intrinsically rewarding, but often social action depends on other considerations.
A key distinction, that we will build on in Leifer's work, is that unlike economic exchange, social exchange carries ambiguous meaning and value. With economic exchange, we are able to exactly identify how much an exchange item is worth. Because social exchanges are ambiguous, we are faced with uncertainty about our debt to others, and thus the actions and meanings our actions take. This can lead, for example, to an exchange spiral -- where I give to you more than you gave to me, so that I can ensure I am not in your debt.
Social attraction draws people together. It is the force that induces people to establish associations on their own and to expand the scope of associations once they have been founded.
An individual is attracted to another if he/she expects associating with him/her will in some way be rewarding. Regardless of the exact motive (physical attraction, economic attraction, etc.) there is a difference between the expectation that the association will be an intrinsically rewarding experience and the expectation that it will be extrinsically rewarding.
This difference creates an interesting dynamic in interpersonal relations. Recall the example that PMB gives of romantic involvement.
If this is so, then the girl will have power over the boy. Why? Because she has least intrinsic interest in the relation, she can use his interest to get him to do things for her, and if he values her company, he will continue to supply these things.
This is a specific example of a more general feature, that unique control of a resource provides one with power.
Thus, frequently one person has skills another person needs, but nothing
to offer in return. While gratitude may be enough sometimes,
it can't endure for a long while (imagine how little you would value a
coworkers thanks if they kept bugging you for help all the time)
Such a person (the skillets one) has several options:
Power is a generalized, social reward, which can be used to attain a variety of ends. It is equivalent in social life to credit in economics. Individual control of important services establishes this kind of power.
Exchange Processes thus lead to differentiation in power. This is true for most intimate as well as more distant relations, i.e. it is as true for romance as for technical help in an office, with the extent of power only changing with the extent of desire for the good the person can supply.
This power will be seen as legitimate if the costs for the subjects is less than the benefits they get from the ruler. If not, then they will feel exploited. PMB argues that this is a normative outcome, that depends on communication of feeling with other people in similar positions. Legitimate power is a basis of organization, and while it is possible to organize people through force, it is much easier and more stable if they view the organization as legitimate.
Blau argues that the two pressures (between legitimization and exploitation)
work in 'contrasting dynamic forces', that builds organizations and later
Be sure you understand:
1) what the social imbalance of reciprocity is: that the exchange can be reciprocal, but imbalance on other dimensions
2) how social power results from control of scarce resources
We ended the class by examining how social balance among triads
can lead to the formation of cohesive subgroups in a population.
On this version of balance theory, we have three people and relations among
those people. Balance is linked to the cognitive dissonance people
feel in groups of others who do not get along. Thus, if I have two
friends who don't like each other, our interactions will be difficult.
We can represent this graphically, with small networks, putting a positive
line between those who like each other and a negative line between those
who do not. This is given in the figure below.
When people act in accordance with simple balance, you get either (1) a system of two groups in opposition or (2) a single group where everyone likes everyone else. If we make the world slightly more complicated, we end up with very different social structures (by, for example, adding direction to the relations (a likes b, but b does not like a). The important point is that through simple interaction rules (similar to those PMB outlines) we can establish how full social system will come to look.