Social Exchange and the Maintenance of Order in Status-Stratified Systems
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Thye, Shane R.; Lawler, Edward J.; Yoon, Jeongkoo
This paper examines the role of social exchange in the construction of microorder within status-differentiated relations. How order is constructed and maintained in the context of social inequality is a classic sociological problem. We use a serendipitous finding from a recent experiment as a stimulus for theorizing an important feature of this larger problem of order. The finding is that, in an experiment where African-American females negotiated with white males, the white males received much larger payoffs than the African-American females. Yet, despite substantial power and profit differentiation advantaging white males, both individuals reported positive feelings (pleasure/satisfaction and interest/excitement) to the same degree, which contradicts most research on emotional responses to power. We argue that these similar emotional responses, in the context of substantial payoff inequalities, are due to parallel, joint effects of (a) status processes that create and legitimate initial profit differences and (b) exchange processes that make salient a relationship between the actors during repeated exchange. This explanation integrates notions of status value, referential structure, and legitimacy from status theories with notions of relational cohesion and shared responsibility from exchange theories. Broadly, the paper proposes some ways to productively interweave ideas from status and exchange theories to explain the emergence or maintenance of enduring social inequalities.
status; power; emotions; status value; relational cohesion; legitimation
Required Publisher Statement: © Elsevier. Final version published as: Thye, S. R., Lawler, E. J., & Yoon, J. (2008). Social exchange and the maintenance of order in status-stratified systems [Electronic version]. In J. Clay-Warner & D. Robinson (Eds.), Social structure and emotion (pp. 37-63). Boston, MA: Elsevier/Academic Press. Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.