Handbook of Social Resource Theory

Part of the series Critical Issues in Social Justice pp 99-118


Social Exchange Theory, Exchange Resources, and Interpersonal Relationships: A Modest Resolution of Theoretical Difficulties

  • Marie S. MitchellAffiliated withDepartment of Management, Terry College of Business, University of Georgia Email author 
  • , Russell S. CropanzanoAffiliated withLeeds School of Business, University of Colorado at Boulder
  • , David M. QuisenberryAffiliated withArmy Management Staff College, Army Civilian University

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Taking a more empirical approach to theory development, in this chapter, Marie Mitchell, Russel Cropanzano, and David Quisenberry raise the question of what social exchange theory has contributed to organizational research. Scholars generally agree on the reciprocal nature of exchange patterns, but theories of social exchange differ in terms of their explanation of the resources exchanged and how those resources are perceived by exchange partners. Contemporary models of social exchange incorporate interpersonal relationships into their exchange theories, but these models differ in how they conceptualize relational patterns. Three broad conceptual paradigms are distinguished: models that emphasize relationship formation, attributes of the relationship as resources to be exchanged, and relationships as a social context that changes the rules by which exchanges are conducted. The authors integrate strengths of each approach to provide a research agenda that can extend social exchange theorizing by providing a better description of what is exchanged and how meaning is derived in exchange relations.