Can Social Order Emerge Spontaneously
Exchange Theory and the Micro-foundations of Social Structure
The processes that lead to social order are considered as intricate and premeditated, and not spontaneous. The construction of social order is the result, in reference to Blau’s Exchange Theory, of trust and solidarity achieved through repeated social exchange. This paper will explain how and why social exchange occurs and the significance of continual social exchange between two counterparts.
Blau states that “social attraction is the force that induces human beings to establish social associations on their own initiative and to expand the scope of their associations once they have been…show more content…
For example, if a superordinate treats his/her subordinates poorly, it prompts the subordinates to retaliate with aggression – actions are the key illustrations to the process of Blau’s Exchange Theory. Therefore, counterparts prefer to maintain balance (Blau 1964: 117) in their social exchanges to avoid falling into another’s debt. In this case, they prefer a sense of a 1-1 exchange that is carried out among a status of equals repeatedly, to the extent that actors depend on each other for the fulfillment of rewards and develop a sense of trust and solidarity (Blau 1964: 122). However, it can be inferred that social order has a wide spectrum of forms (i.e. a relationship of equality or a relationship between superordinate and subordinate).
Though one may favor exchange processes that conclude with a social association that values the idea of equality, however Blau states that exchange processes can “give rise to differentiation of power” (Blau 1964: 114), which results with relation to superordination and subordination. Blau explains this disequilibrium as a result of needs for resources from unlike partners and efforts among equals to gain advantages over the other (Blau 1964: 114). Relating to intrinsic rewards, if one counterpart gains a reward from the exchange, the other counterpart expects repayment in the form of future wards – hence the principle of reciprocity (Blau 1964: 121). Reciprocity between unlike counterparts creates this sense of imbalance