Externalities of Exchange: Foundations for Future Study
Over the years scholars have articulated and debated numerous theoretical perspectives in attempts to explain fully the discipline of marketing (for review, see Sheth, Gardner, and Garrett 1988). Of these many different theoretical perspectives, the exchange school of thought holds particular promise for future theoretical development. With a solid foundation based on writings by such leading marketing scholars as Alderson and Martin ( 1965), Hunt ( 1983), Kotler ( 1972), and Bagozzi ( 1974a, 1975, 1978, 1979), among others, the exchange school appears to capture the true essence of marketing. For instance, Sheth, Gardner, and Garrett ( 1988, 182) recently concluded that "the social exchange school of marketing thought seems most promising in developing a general theory of marketing."
However, although the intrinsic appeal and historical legitimacy of the exchange perspective are undeniable, certain conceptual flaws remain to be addressed. Most notably, as we will argue in this chapter, the exchange perspective tends to assume that the actors are ensconced in a highly predictable environment and enter into exchange relationships only after fully evaluating any potential outcomes of all possible exchange options. For example, Alderson and Martin ( 1965, 122) asserted:
It is assumed that if a concrete situation offers an exchange opportunity, the number of alternatives realistically available to either side is not infinite in number but limited to only a few. Faced with a decision, an individual must be guided by his present knowledge of alternatives and the ordering according to his references within that set.
However, we will assert in this chapter that exchange environments are not always as predictable and certain as previous theoretical writings seem to suggest. Instead, even though exchange actors may attempt to understand fully their alternative courses of action and weigh carefully the potential benefits of these alternatives, in many exchanges unexpected outcomes occur. These unexpected outcomes, or "externalities," are a potentially important aspect of many exchange