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Analysis Of Peter Blau's Exchange Theory

1840 words - 7 pages

How Blau?s Exchange Theory is Applied to Both Levels of Sociological TheoryThe endeavor of shifting a micro-sociological theory into the realm of a macro-sociological view of society requires ambition, empirical evidence, and clarity. Peter Blau makes this attempt in his essential work, ?Exchange and Power in Social Life.? Blau manages to accomplish the three requirements for such a task with the exception clarity. This writing hopes to fill this void of clarity with the following explanation of both his theory as it is used in micro-analysis, in macro-analysis, and most importantly, the bridges between them.The first thing we must consider to understand this evolution of theory is how Blau builds this evolution of theory up to a larger scale. Blau begins with laying the foundation for exchange theory as it operates on the micro level. His tenets and assumptions are direct and comprehensible. After explaining how interpersonal exchange operates, he proceeds to group functions, and the processes in which they undergo in order to be constructed, maintained, and altered. The alteration of groups becomes his paramount arguement when dealing with the transition from a micro view to a macro one. The influence of Karl Marx becomes apparent in his concluding chapters where Blau addresses the collective thoughts of conflict theory and exchange theory as applied on the macro-sociological level. Ultimately, Blau?s entire theory consists of the use of certain values as a means of movement through his four facets of social structure: integrations, differentiation, organization, and opposition (Blau 1964: 271), and that this evolution of the society is a result of dialectical forces which disrupt the social equilibrium. Just as Blau leads us through his book with a logical progression of theory, this essay too will follow the same path by paralleling my explanation closely to his text.The initial facet of social structure, integration, is where interpersonal interaction occurs. Blau presents certain requirements for exchange in interpersonal interactions. Expectation, reciprocation, trust, rational conduct, and equilibrium are the groundwork for an exchange an to occur. But, the aforementioned requirements for interaction are all merely the operational components of exchange theory.Exchange theory essentially functions off of the rewards system. In its original conception, George Homans based exchange theory from an economic model whose goal is to maximize utility. This maximization of utility simply implies that one attempts to gain as much as possible from a situation while exerting as little effort as possible. Therefore, our motivation for all social interaction becomes the pursuit of rewards. Whether these rewards are intrinsic or extrinsic, material or not, exchange theory?s primary focus is on our ability to maximize utility.With this is mind we can perceive that it is the expectation of gratification which drives us. By performing a certain act one...

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