Equity is used to define a set of organizational rules and procedures by which authority is legitimatized in bureaucracies. It is conceptualized in more abstract and functional terms by sociologists, anthropologists, and political scientists. Dealing with equity and social exchange is far-ranging in scope. This chapter examines the current status of the theorizing in equity and social exchange in human relationships and point the way to future developments. A number of theorists have attempted to apply equity and social exchange conceptions to a wide variety of areas, including social interactions, close relationships, helpfulness, and work and pay in economic settings. It maintains that humans frequently consider fairness in their calculation of costs and benefits in their encounters with others. Human behavior reflects a moral order and cannot have a truly adequate social psychology unless one know what rules govern the judgments of fairness and the way these judgments affect social conduct. The theories of fairness apply only to the simplest form of human interdependence––the unilateral allocation of outcome. The overall structure and the ongoing processes that characterize human interdependence and exchange are also determined in the chapter.
The preparation of this chapter was supported by NSF Grant, BNS 80-16214.
The present chapter represents a revision and extension of an earlier chapter by C. McClintock and L. Keil entitled “Equity and Social Exchange” which appeared in J. Greenberg and R. Cohen (Eds.) Equity and Social Justice, NY: Academic Press, 1982.