Homans’ ‘interactional reductionism’, as it can be termed, is also apparent in his theory of power. He
defines power as follows: „when the total reward of a person A, associated with taking action which
rewards the person B is lower – at least in B’s perception – than the total reward of B linked to the
performance of action, which rewards A, and as a result B alters his/her beehaviour in a way
advantageuous to A, then A exercises power over B(Homans, 1974b, p. 83). . Zdaniem Homansa,.
This definition involves bothcases of power not based on coercion, „where no penalties are
deployed” (a person who does care about the reward provided by another one less than vice versa,
has, thanks to this, power over her), and instances of power dependent on the means of violence
(it is in this context as well that the above principle of ‘smaller interest’ holds, an universal, in
Homans’ view, base of power: a bandit, for example, enjoys an unique capability of rewarding
actions, as he is able to mete out capital punishment, and punishment issimply, as is well-known, a
negative reward.He has the power of forcing his victim to give him all her money, his profit is,
however, relatively less compared to the benefit enjoyed by his partner in this peculiar exchange.
Homans, for better or worse, goes, however, even further than that. He juxtaposes two situations: „We
can watch the case of power exercised by the leader of a small group over his supporters. We can
also observe power exercised by the president of the U.S, who commands his soldiers to fight in
Vietnam(Homans, 1971, p.371). Wychodząc z
Homans’ assumption that „mechanisms of beehaviour of people at the level of interpersonal relations
and in big organisations are the same, are identical”, „is concretised in the form of the contention
that „psychological mechanisms, which produce power in both cases are the same”.From the
foregoing the author of the theory of social exchange concludes that power does not rely on
specific rewards and punishments pertaining to human activities, it is based on the fact of
functioning of rewards and punishments alone(Homans , 1971, p. 371).
On the grounds o f Homans’ approach the same kind and degree of power is exercised by the father
over his children, by the teacher over her pupils, by the capitalist over the workers, and the state
over its citizens.
What is allege here is an identity of processes relevant for the entire nations with ones played out at
the level of interpersonal relations only, and relevant exclusively for participants of these relations.
State power is at the same footing as parental authority, power of the three-star general is equated
with short-lived power exercised by the leader of a peer groupwagi ng a ‘war’ with another one.
Such an approach, of course, effectively blocks any understanding of the real roots of power as a
macrosocial phenomenon. This is a consequence of the more general fact: an inability to grasp
macrostructures by means of the conceptual instruments worked out at the level of direct
One cannot agree more with Talcott Parsons’ opinion according to which as yet „Homans has not
shown how his principles can account for the basic structural features of large social
systems”(1971, p. 34). This inability is written intofundamental premises of Homans’ theoretical
position; psychological propositions proposed by him as an universal explanatory instrument refer
to what people have in common, they cannot illuminate the differences between societies”(Blau,
1970, p. 337) , those various forms and products of social life that the humanity has generated
throughout its longtime the history.
The above discussed partial and unsuccesful attempts to go beyond the vicious circle by means of the
categories of the theory of exchange indirectly point to the fallacy of its point of departure, which,
therefor, must be turn over its head: not only to comprehend society through the microscopic prism
of ‘elementary relations’ is not possible, but much of what happens inside small groups cannot be
understood without taking account of the broader societal context. This, of course, applies also to
such phenomena the theory of exchange is dealing with.
Can, for instance, the presence in the social life of even many highly developed nations of a host of
informal exchanges of various services, not excluding goods be explained on the basis of the
individual traits of the participants of those transactions, or, rather, the concrete socio-economic,
but also political and legal situation of a given society sh
When Homans says that „the secret of society consists in the circumstance that it is a human creation”, he
formulates undisputable truth, which could be called into question perhaps only by the believers in certain form
of s ociological deism. There is more to that, however. The author of „Social Behavior”. Puts forward the related
claim, which is only seemingly true: „There is nothing in society, which has not been contributed by
humans ”(Homans , 1961, p. 385), for it negates the autonomy of s ociety, or, mo re broadly, any s upraindividual
structures. Following in his footsteps other representatives of the strand of rational choice reject an autonomy or
the fact of restraints impos ed on human action by the social structures”(Scott, 2000). Meanwhile, the fact that
social structures consist mostly, albeit not exclusively of human individuals does not mean that the former could
be reduced to the latter, for structures are not simply aggregates or collections of elements, but precisely