Network Exchange Theory

Network Exchange Theory

Network Exchange Theory

Network Exchange Theory


The field of network exchange has grown over the last 20 years from a few scattered studies to substantial publications in leading journals. Today network exchange is as advanced as any area of sociology. Willer and his contributors present its most advanced theory, Network Exchange Theory, and, by assembling and supplementing formulations now spread across leading journals, provide scholars with a unique collection.

Contributors examine basic issues in theory as well as research. The end product is a well-tested theory which relates social structure to social action under a wide range of conditions, and is proven to be a useful tool for structural analysis at both the micro and macro levels. An important text and guide for researchers and students of social theory, structure, and social psychology.


If understanding the powerful effects which social structures have on human behavior is not the central issue of sociology, it should be. As Network Exchange Theory shows, human social behavior is shaped by the social relations in which it occurs. in turn, social relations are conditioned by the structures within which they are embedded. When a social relation is embedded in one type of structure, people produce one kind of behavior. When the same relation is embedded in a second type of structure, another kind of behavior is produced. Theory which links structures and relations to behavior is at the core of this book.

This is the first book to trace the development of a formal social theory from its first concepts to its most recent formulations. I begin with basic concepts that were first developed in the early 1980s. These basic concepts are still in use today and form the core of “Elementary Theory.” That theory deals with exchange, conflict, and coercive structures. Since 1987, Elementary Theory's research has concentrated on exchange structures, and as the exchange component grew it gained its own name: Network Exchange Theory. For brevity, Network Exchange Theory is sometimes shortened to net. of course, the basic concepts of Elementary Theory are also the basic concepts of net.

Chapter by chapter, this book traces a theory development that extends scope to more and more kinds of structures. Looking more closely, we find that this theory work has also had its share of setbacks and blind alleys. the presentation here is not an artificial reconstruction; both progress and regress are covered. Furthermore, no theory develops in an unbroken line. in the development of Elementary Theory/Network Exchange Theory, important relations and structures have been jumped over which should have been studied. I point to them . . .

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