Social Exchange Theory is a widely accepted theory that explains how humans interact and form relationships. This theory is based on the idea that social behavior is a sort of exchange where individuals seek to maximize their benefits while minimizing their costs.

The Social Exchange Theory has its roots in economics, where it was first introduced as the Principle of Least Interest by George Homans. However, it was another sociologist who took this idea and transformed it into the Social Exchange Theory that we know today. Let’s take a closer look at who proposed the Social Exchange Theory.

Peter Blau – The Pioneer of Social Exchange Theory

Peter Blau was a prominent American sociologist who proposed the Social Exchange Theory in 1964. Born in Vienna, Austria, in 1918, Blau immigrated to the United States as a child and later became an influential figure in sociology. He earned his PhD from Columbia University and taught at various institutions throughout his career, including the University of Chicago and Stanford University.

The Development of Social Exchange Theory

Blau’s interest in social exchange began with his study of formal organizations such as businesses and government agencies. He observed that people within these organizations interacted with each other based on mutual expectations of what they would receive from each other. From this observation, he developed the concept of “social exchange,” which he defined as an interaction between two or more people where each person seeks to maximize their rewards while minimizing their costs.

Blau’s work on social exchange theory gained widespread attention in the 1960s when he published his book “Exchange and Power in Social Life.” In this book, he expanded on his earlier ideas about social exchange and developed a comprehensive theoretical framework for understanding how social relationships are formed and maintained.

The Key Tenets of Social Exchange Theory

According to Blau’s version of social exchange theory, there are three key tenets that underpin all social interactions:

The Legacy of Peter Blau

Peter Blau’s contribution to sociology is significant, particularly in the field of social exchange theory. His work has influenced generations of sociologists and scholars who study human behavior, relationships, and organizations. Blau died in 2002, but his ideas continue to be studied and debated by academics around the world.


Peter Blau was a pioneer in the field of social exchange theory. His ideas about social exchange have had a profound impact on our understanding of how people interact with each other.

By developing a theoretical framework for understanding social relationships based on mutual expectations of rewards and costs, he provided a new perspective on human behavior that has influenced sociologists for decades. Today, his work continues to inspire research and scholarship in sociology and related fields.