Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Peter Blau

Read: Appelrouth & Edles 454-473

Professor at the University of Chicago then Columbia University. President of American Sociological Association 1973. Senior Fellow at Kings College, Fellow of the National Academy of Science, the American Philosophical Society, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He was also Pitt Professor at Cambridge University and Distinguished Honorary Professor at the Tianjin Academy of Social Sciences in China. Died in March 2002 of adult respiratory distress syndrome.

Blau was interested in building a theoretical bridge that would link sociological studies of everyday interactions between individuals and those that examined the collectivist or structural dimensions of society, such as economic systems, political institutions, or belief systems.

exchange theory - is a social psychological and sociological perspective that explains social change and stability as a process of negotiated exchanges between parties. Social exchange theory posits that all human relationships are formed by the use of a subjective cost-benefit analysis and the comparison of alternatives. The theory has roots in economics, psychology and sociology.

Blau stressed the significance of rewards in inducing others to acceded to ones wishes. For Blau, then, an individual is able to exercise power over others when he alone is able to supply needed rewards to them. If the others are unable to receive the benefits from another source, and if they are unable to offer rewards to the individual, they become dependent on the individual. Their only option is to submit to his demands lest he withdraw the needed benefits. In short, power results from an unequal exchange stemming from an individuals or groups monopoly over a desired resource (456).

In defining power in terms of an inequality of resources and the submission that an imbalanced exchange imposes, Blau is led to consider the processes that shape the exercise of power and the rise of opposition to it. These processes, in turn, account for both stability and change in interpersonal and group relations, as well as in more complex social institutions. Of central importance is the role of social norms of fairness and the legitimacy they either confer on or deny those in dominant positions (456).

extrinsic rewards – are “detachable” from the association in which they are acquired. In other words, extrinsic benefits are derived not from another’s company itself, but from the external rewards his company will provide. Here, associating with others serves as a means to a further end. Thus, a salesperson is considerate because she wants to make a commission, not because she values the relationship she initiates with any particular customer (461).

intrinsic rewards – are those things we find pleasurable in and of themselves, not because they provide the means for obtaining other benefits. Examples of intrinsic rewards are celebrating a holiday with one’s family, going on a walk with a friend, or love—the purest type of intrinsic reward. In cases such as these, rewards express ones commitment to the relationship and are exchanged in the interest of maintaining it (461).