The fairness identity and the emergence of inequality

Social exchange theories explain how differences in structural power can generate inequalities in exchange networks. We argue here that even in the absence of structural power differences, inequality can emerge out of the identity process. We posit that when structurally equivalent actors are uncertain about the resource levels available for distribution, different levels of the fairness identity and responses to identity non-verification will influence how they negotiate for resources. Results from an experiment that varies the fairness identity level and the identity verification of actors in two different equal power exchange networks confirm this. Absent structural power differences, the level of the fairness identity, identity non-verification, and structure of the network mutually influence the distribution of resources such that some dyads earn as much as two and a half times more than others. We discuss our findings as they pertain to unearthing the processes by which group inequalities arise and persist.


About Giorgio Bertini

Research Professor. Founder Director at Learning Change Project - Research on society, culture, art, neuroscience, cognition, critical thinking, intelligence, creativity, autopoiesis, self-organization, rhizomes, complexity, systems, networks, leadership, sustainability, thinkers, futures ++
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