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Power, Dependence and Social Exchange

Cook, KS, Cheshire, C and Gerbasi, AM (2006) Power, Dependence and Social Exchange In: Contemporary Social Psychological Theories. Stanford University Press, Stanford, California, U.S.A., pp. 194-215. ISBN 0804753474

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Power is a primary dimension of inequality in society and an important determinant of life chances. It has been a major focus of social and political theory since the time of Hobbes, Machiavelli, Marx and Weber, among others. What determines who has power and how power is exercised are central issues in social life as well as in politics. One of the most significant contributions to the analysis of social power was Emerson’s (1962, 1964) early theoretical treatise on powerdependence relations. This work became the focus of a major body of work in contemporary social psychology that also builds on the important contributions of George Homans and Peter Blau to the development of social exchange theory in sociology (see this volume, chapter x). For Blau (1964 [1986]), as for Emerson (1972), there was a clear connection between power and social exchange. The fact that some actors often control more highly valued resources than others can lead to inequality in exchange as social debts are incurred which Blau (1964) argued are more easily discharged by acts of subordination. These actions of subjugation by the less powerful or domination by the more powerful often become self-perpetuating, forming the foundation of power inequalities in relations of exchange. Inequality and power differentiation were thus viewed by Blau as emergent properties of social exchange processes. Differences in the nature of the valued resources among actors result in interdependence and thus the need for exchange. They also serve as the basis for emerging inequalities in exchange outcomes as well as power differentials between actors linked by exchange (see Cook and Rice 2003). For Richard Emerson (1962, 1964) these power differentials derive from the relative dependencies of actors on one another for the resources of value they obtain through social exchange. His 1962 paper entitled, “Power-Dependence Relations,” is now a citation classic. It formed the foundation for a large literature on power relations within social psychology and sociology more broadly. It also formed the primary basis for the analysis of power in exchange networks, the direction his work took in subsequent publications (1972a, b; 1976). According to Emerson (1972a: 39), his initial reason for beginning the work set forth in the two chapters written in 1967 and eventually published in 1972 was “to formulate a more encompassing (and hopefully enriching) framework around previous work on power-dependence relations.” Power and exchange were closely interconnected in all of the subsequent work on social exchange.

Item Type: Book Section
Subjects : Management
Divisions : Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences > School of Hospitality and Tourism Management
Authors :
Date : 1 May 2006
Copyright Disclaimer : © 2016 Stanford University Press
Related URLs :
Depositing User : Symplectic Elements
Date Deposited : 06 Sep 2016 15:23
Last Modified : 06 Sep 2016 15:23

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