Many social exchange approaches to interpersonal stratification parallel closely the “functionalist” theory of stratification at the macro-societal level. Such approaches have been criticized by conflict theorists for overemphasizing value consensus, freedom of choice, and
social integration. A social exchange approach to bargaining networks is discussed which does not neglect the conflictful aspects of micro-stratification. This formulation asserts that power is a direct function of the centrality of the position occupied by a person in an exchange network.
The formation of pre-normative status hierarchies in bargaining networks is explained. An experiment is reported which uses an interpersonal bargaining task and a manipulation of the centrality of the exchange network position occupied by subjects. The following hypotheses linking positional
power in bargaining networks to evaluations of self and others were supported: persons located in central exchange network positions will evaluate themselves as feeling (a) more pleasant and (b) more exhilarated than persons located in peripheral positions; and central persons will impute
(a) lower status and (b) higher positive evaluations (“pleasantness”) to peripheral positions than the latter” will impute to central persons.