Social Exchange Essay

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Steven Schlanger SOC 711 February 18, 2013 Social Exchange Theory On a basic conceptual level Social Exchange Theory (SET) posits that all social behavior is the result of or involves a process of exchange. It is assumed that the purpose of all social exchanges is to maximize benefits and minimize costs. When acting in any social context an individual will weigh latent or manifest benefits and risks of social interactions and relationships on both personal and interpersonal levels. If risks or dangers outweigh the expected rewards, individuals will terminate or abandon the affiliation with that person or group. Negatives in the equation are costs involved, which may be seen as time, energy, money and so on. Benefits or things that a person gets out of any relationship may involve friendship, amusement, social support, companionship and so on. The value of any relationship according to SET is essentially subtracting the costs from the benefits in determining if the interaction is positive or negative. In looking at SET we must consider several basic tenets which are that there are negotiated rules and norms of exchange that are expected to be abided by. The most salient of these rules is that of reciprocity or repayment in kind. In looking at reciprocity according to Ekeh (1974) as put forth by Levi-Strauss, a mutual reciprocity involving two participants is referred to as restricted exchange. Reciprocities involving three persons or more, Levi-Strauss referred to as generalized exchange. As Ekeh (1974) points out, contemporary social theory in the models of Parsons’ and Homans ’relied on explanations using mutual reciprocities. This could not adequately explain complex kinship arrangements. Levi-Strauss on the other hand introduced the concepts of mutual reciprocity and univocal reciprocity. Where univocal reciprocity system of social interaction
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