Comparison Of The Social Exchange Theory And The Symbolic Interaction Theory

2133 words - 9 pages

The theory I originally chose to critique was the Social Exchange and Rational Choice framework from our class book. I chose this theory because when we talked about it in class it made a lot of sense to me. Its propositions and foundations are very applicable to many situations, and I felt like I had a good grasp of its concepts and structure. However, in doing research for this paper, I discovered that contrary to what our book led me to believe, Social Exchange is a theory entirely separate from Rational Choice theory. So, in keeping with this discovery and despite my better judgment, I will do my best to relay and critique the information I find on either one or both theories and then compare only Social Exchange theory to the Symbolic Interaction framework. Although I will try to get the same information for both theories, there are not many resources which describe Social Exchange theory, and there are far more for Rational Choice theory, so the critique and discussion may be a little lopsided.
The definition of the Social Exchange theory in very simple language is a model describing an exchange of benefits. In the case of the Social Exchange theory, these benefits need not be monetary or tangible, but certainly could be, if that was what was needed (Molm, 2006, p.30). According to Linda Molm, “People depend on one another for much of what they need and value in social life, and they provide these benefits to each other through the process of social exchange” (Molm, 2006, p.24). The longer definition and the focus of the Social Exchange framework as defined by Linda Molm are “the benefits that people obtain from, and contribute to, social interaction and the opportunity structures and interdependencies that govern those exchanges” (Molm, 2006, p.24). To put it another way, the Social Exchange theory describes the benefits and structures that are received from and form the basis of exchanges between people. An example of the benefits received from social exchange would be the benefits of encouragement and acceptance, as well as the tangible benefits of cards and small gifts, that I receive by attending meetings of a church-based group called Celebrate Recovery. Celebrate Recovery is a program designed to help people overcome hurts in the past which are holding them back from a successful future, and offers many of the benefits of social exchange, including but not limited to accountability and camaraderie.
The definition of the Rational Choice theory, according to Keith Dowding, is “a methodology or organizational perspective that generates questions about the social world and provides some standard techniques for answering those questions” (Dowding, 2011, p.36). Basically, Rational Choice theory is a way of organizing and answering the questions researchers come up with from observing, philosophizing, or both. There are three requirements for interpreting the behavior and actions of agents (people) under this theory. The first is that a...

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