Handbook of Social Resource Theory: Theoretical Extensions, Empirical Insights, and Social Applications

The volume at hand, the "Handbook of Social Resource Theory: Theoretical Extensions, Empirical Insights, and Social Applications", put together by Kjell Törnblom and Ali Kazemi, presents a wonderful selection of scholarly articles on the topic of Resource Theory, including much cutting-edge research by distinguished scientists. It is the successful attempt to provide an overview and reference volume for individuals who might be interested in uncovering the patterns behind human interactions and exchanges.

It should be noted that this handbook is definitely more appropriate (and intended) for readers with a scholarly interest in the topic than for individuals with superficial interest in the popular psychology of social resource exchange. A certain amount of prerequisite knowledge of research processes in general and the methodology of psychology research in particular is necessary to follow some of the articles included in the volume.

Resource Theory was first developed over forty years ago by Edna and Uriel Foa (Foa, 1971; Foa & Foa, 1974) and describes an economy of social interaction: it attempts to observe and analyze exchange between people and the social rules which govern such exchanges. As such, material as well as intangible resources are considered. We all share love or information, receive status or money, give goods or services. And we can do research on all of these resources and rules that govern our lives, and find them applicable and of importance in scientific fields such as psychology, economics, politics and philosophy, among many others.

In the beginning pages of the volume, of course, we start out with a listing of the book's content; it is well-organized and introduces a structure of five major divisions. First, we have a framework as the basis for the remaining collective of research. It is followed up with conceptual and theoretical developments and integrations. We are then introduced to a variety of issues to which the theory is applicable: organizational, institutional and societal issues, as well as intercultural ones. As expected from such an extensive volume, not all articles will always suit or satisfy all readers equally, but the editors have chosen a well-considered and certainly broad enough selection so that everyone's needs should be met at least once for each of the proposed topics, if not more often. Finally, the last 100 pages or so cover justice conceptions, the only part of the book I found comparatively less accessible for scholars from mainly the psychological disciplines such as myself (though I expect it to be very useful to professionals of the justice disciplines).

The overview article, written by the editors themselves, introduces the "Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow" of Resource Theory. Its mentions of Marx’ and Weber’s economical theories are just as welcome as those of psychologists Freud and Maslow, to name-drop only a few. Research articles that are cited come from areas of inquiry such as quality of life and well-being, work satisfaction, organizational behavior, interpersonal relationships, social comparison and exclusion, personality theories, and many more. It does what this type of article should: it gives a solid overview over what has happened so far in Social Resource research, and what is to be expected from the pages to come.

The then following framework section starts, as it should, with the eloquent and highly entertaining article by Foa & Foa (1976) that first proposed the now much-researched theory, in the publication Contemporary Topics in Social Psychology:

People tend to describe their interpersonal encounters in terms of emotions and attitudes., the article starts. […] We ask: What happens when two or more people interact? Usually, exchanges of certain commodities take place, and our satisfaction or dissatisfaction with an encounter depends on the outcome of these transactions.

This chapter serves well as an invitation to further explore the topic throughout the book and to search to expand the scope of the original theory with interesting stories told with well-researched data, some of my favorites being about the "Attribution of Friendship"; "Moral Resources"; "Fairness Principles in Social Dilemmas" and "Cultural Differences in Resource Exchange at the Workplace".

Overall, the handbook is an impressive mix of basic lab research and applied field studies with good cultural diversity (research is included for example from Israel, Sweden, Canada, Germany). An interesting, broad spectrum of applicability is discussed ranging from micro level, for example the intimacy of dyadic relationships, to the macro wealth of global interconnectedness. It addresses numerous issues within various areas and contributes greatly to the body of knowledge on social interaction and exchange.

book rating

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