• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

Is Goffman a systematic theorist?

Extracts from this document...

Introduction

Is Goffman a systematic social theorist or a 'cynical observer of white American middle-class mores'? Goffman has been widely regarded as a rudimentary, 'flat' thinker in the world of social theory. His work, whilst far reaching and insightful of the day to day events in social life, has come under much controversy resulting phrases typical of the example above. To answer such a question, we need first to ask ourselves what was Goffman's preoccupation. Was his aim to develop a systematic sociological framework in which to discern more about modern life on a micro level, or to use the discipline as a guise in which to be damming about a certain social group in American society? My first instinct is to assume that his intentions involved both factors, but that there is an emphasis more so on one of these objectives. If my interpretation of his works attest to this, I think the next imperative question would be does this make Goffman's work a useless read? I think this is the main tension of the question. Do we renounce Goffman in light of his biased take on the white American middle-class because we believe this prejudice has compromised his efforts as a sociologist? There are In The Presentation of the self in Everyday Life Goffman seeks to outline and illustrate what it is about the minor happenings in the day to day life that makes it a vitally important area of study in sociology. ...read more.

Middle

Here and other places throughout the world we have instances of a personal front in social life and pertaining to social rules which may not appear so alien to the dramaturgical perspective. I would however assert that whilst there is some validity in this statement, the dramaturgical framework should be viewed in mind of a Western society. But I think we have established that Goffman does set out a somewhat loose but definite systematic social framework in which one could expound upon social interaction. Anthony Giddens in Social Theory and Modern Sociology notes Goffman as an 'intrinsically accessible' sociologist as a cause for his popularity in the public sphere but goes on to suggest that it is the very plain language which he uses that results in his lack of legitimacy in the sociological discipline - 'his texts do not abound with the strange sounding neologisms'ix. He also cites the fact that Goffman supports these theories neither with any statistical evidence, nor detailed observations in the real life but with fictional literature and blas´┐Ż assertions. He describes these methods as 'cavalier' in execution as there empirical data appears extremely lacking. Goffman's attempts to establish a methodology seems more like a stream of essays rather than an integrated body of work (which might explain his need to reference literature as support for his theories rather than the empirical approach favoured by those of his discipline.) Giddens also admits to the assertion that Goffman's work seemed like 'no more than light relief'x compared to the functionalist and naturalistic models of his time. ...read more.

Conclusion

However poorly conceived and received, Goffman's work had an attractive element to it which pierced the American conscience in the time in which he wrote. It might have been the apparent cynical tone with which he wrote (and with which the public received it) it may also have been the accessibility of his work or the mere controversial nature of the book. But many, including Giddens have noted Goffman's systematic theorising, be it of a loose and wondering nature. It is still there. i Erving Goffman: The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life: Penguin Books, 1990, Pg 26 ii Erving Goffman: The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life: Penguin Books, 1990, Pg 14 iii Erving Goffman: The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life: Penguin Books, 1990, Pg 14 iv Erving Goffman: The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life: Penguin Books, 1990, Pg 20 v Erving Goffman: The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life: Penguin Books, 1990, Pg 231 vi Erving Goffman: The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life: Penguin Books, 1990, Pg 233 vii Erving Goffman: The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life: Penguin Books, 1990, Pg 234 viii Erving Goffman: The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life: Penguin Books, 1990, Pg 240 ix Anthony Giddens: Social Theory and Modern Sociology: Polity Press, 1993, Pg 109 x Anthony Giddens: Social Theory and Modern Sociology: Polity Press, 1993, Pg 111 xi Anthony Giddens: Social Theory and Modern Sociology: Polity Press, 1993, Pg 112 xii Erving Goffman: Behaviour in Public Places. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our University Degree Social Theory section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related University Degree Social Theory essays

  1. Power is Everywhere - Michael Foucault. In the books Discipline and Punish and ...

    He was then asked to explain the difference between the architecture and space? To which he replied that architecture was an element of space that performed the functions of "allocation" and "canalization". On the subject of different forms of government he has stated; Despite differences of objective from one period

  2. Unravel the underlying principles in moka-exchange, and in the bridewealth-exchange amongst the Nuer of ...

    Moka needs a lot of arrangements. It is a collective thing, which does not go smoothly. Moka is an important stimulus to make people work, in order to avoid the highly unpleasant status of 'rubbish man'. Pigs are taken care of by women labour. One of Ongka's wives is seen in the film, complaining how tired

  1. Is Society Intrinsically Unequal? Barbara Ehrenreichs Nickel-and-Dimed on (Not) Getting By in America

    and precise assessment of the way life is like with such a wide range of salaries. Was Ehrenreich's purpose in detailing her experiences to uncover the injustices committed by the managers, or prove to the lower-class that she has compassion for her colleagues?

  2. The Concept of Self by G.H. Mead, H. Blumer and E. Goffman

    assign to the interchange and how the individual then interpret the symbols related with it.

  1. Sociology defamiliarizes the taken- for- granted nature of the everyday'. Explain and illustrate this ...

    street noting the other people's adverse reaction, which could be anything from ridicule to hostility. This experiment reveals the taken for granted and socially acceptable behaviour of the street and the connected codes of conduct and behaviour. (Garfinkel, 1967). (Chapter 2 page 99)

  2. New Social Movements most effectively describe a specific movement-type emerging in the late 1970s; ...

    4.6 Offe, in agreement with Touraine and Melucci, sees structural transformation as key to understanding the increased role of a 'new middle class' in New Social Movement politics. The favouring of structural as opposed to 'functionalist' arguments in the theorising of NSMs, he argues, indicates a commitment to theories for

  1. What is sociology?

    This transformed the 'British economy from one based primarily upon agriculture to one based primarily upon manufacture' (Lee, D and Newby, H, 1983: 26-27). These new methods of manufacture, first based on water power and then steam power - to the operation of large machines, gave birth to factories,

  2. Cover Page

    be included or excluded in any survey thus used to produce accurate figures for the levels of poverty in any nation. Indeed, there has been many arguments put forward which challenge our above-mentioned definitions: as have there been challenges made against the many prominent theorists.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work