[Excerpt] This chapter reviews the research program of relational cohesion theory (RCT) (Lawler & Yoon, 1993, 1996, 1998; Lawler et al., 2000; Thye et al., 2002) and uses it to develop a model of organizational commitment. Broadly, relational cohesion theory (RCT) has attempted to understand conditions and processes that promote an expressive relation in social exchange; an expressive relation is indicated by relational cohesion, that is, the degree to which exchange partners perceive their relationship as a unifying object having its own value. The research program argues that such relational cohesion is a proximal cause of various forms of behavioral commitment in a group setting, for example stay behavior, gift-giving and investment.
In this chapter, we develop a model of organizational commitment through the following three steps: First, we review the program of relational cohesion theory (RCT) and establish the key theoretical concepts and theorems through which it explains how instrumentally motivated actors in exchange relations develop an expressive relation. Second, we apply the concepts and theorems to derive a ‘relational-cohesion model’ of organizational commitment. Third, we examine the heuristic value of the new model by deriving predictions with respect to several organizational phenomena to which conventional organizational commitment theories may not have paid sufficient attention. The role of emotions is highlighted and our purpose is to theorize the interrelationships of instrumental, affective and normative forms of organizational commitment.