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Book Summary On Presentation Of Self

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Sociology
Wordcount: 4555 words Published: 27th Apr 2017

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The presentation of oneself is based on the observation of an individual through comparing the life of him and the other people. Because of that inspiration of determining the revolutions that are found in the society, the roles and relationships that are found can affect the value of an individual and the idea on how he can describe himself from other people. Due to the intensive curiosity of an individual in life and his environment, there are studies that stress out the possible explanation on how to describe the changes in the earnest way. Various sociological models and approaches were presented to show the connection of the man in his environment. The interaction of the people in the social life is presented by the Erving Goffman in his dramaturgical model that attempts to see the society in a lighter sense.

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The Key Ideas

Erving Goffman prepared the key ideas behind the discussion on the values wherein the ideas in theorizing the social roles and relations that are present in the contemporary society. According to the book of Goffman, the individual performs a certain role, which varies according to their audience. Those individuals as actors have an intention in manipulating the role that they play for the purpose of managing others impressions of them. Usually, this occurs through the interaction of the individuals in their everyday life. Since the society presents the interactions that usually matters with the human social relations or group of life, there is a natural involvement of disciplines that goes right with the study of sociology including the economics, political science, and psychology because they all fall within the topic of human society. Goffman, presented the theory that suggests that individuals engage in a significant amount of expressive manipulation along several fronts. Goffman likened his ideas to a theatre because “individuals are, in essence, dramatic actors on a stage playing parts dictated by culture” and this is the goal of such a presentation is acceptance from the audience through manipulation. If the actor succeeds, then they will be viewed as they desired by the audience. Goffman argues that the key to this success is to control which information the audience has access to (Goffman, 1959).

Unlike the sociological theories wherein the individuals are linked with the disciplines early states, Goffman’s dramaturgical model outlines the existence of the human’s perspective on the stages where as an actor he usually plays. Giddens (2009) suggests that front regions are situations where individuals act out formal roles, essentially when they are ‘on-stage’. Performances in front regions often require teamwork in order to be successful. Impression management also occurs in the front regions as the actor is trying to give the audience certain impressions of himself. Goffman suggests that “when an individual appears before others, he will have many motives for trying to control the situation”. In contrast, back regions (of the stage) are where individuals or performance teams prepare themselves for their roles. Goffman implies that it is where teams discuss and rehearse their performance before they enter the front stage. Props can also be used to aid an actor in their performance and they are assembled in the back region. These props assist an actor in convincing the audience that their performance is true. For example, a waitress in a restaurant would use a notepad and paper to take an order, to help convince her audience (customers) that her performance is true. Goffman indicated that the two regions are connected by a “guarded passageway”. This stops public performances being shattered by an inadvertent look from an audience member. If an individual’s performance is weak, the audience will see through it. “The phenomenon of embarrassment is where the actor acts ineffectually or is unable to sustain their expected role. This leads to them being excluded from full participation in society, which demonstrates the importance of maintaining the appearance of being a competent social actor. The dramaturgical models value in theorizing social roles and relations in contemporary society is open to discussion. Goffman’s ideas are praised for having had a “profound influence” on sociology as a discipline. On his book, it clearly states that Goffman uses the dramaturgical metaphor as his contribution in the field of sociology. He acknowledges the most stimulating and thought-provoking contributions to sociology which made the sociologists today refer to his work, especially for examples on how to carry out micro sociological work.

Goffman’s dramaturgical model can also be seen as valuable within contemporary society as the concepts he developed have become part of “the very fabric of sociology” (Giddens, 2009). For example, phrases such as ‘front stage’, ‘back stage’ and ‘performance’ have all become an important part of sociology’s vocabulary. Moreover, Goffman identifies the way in which humans use culture in interaction. This allows for a certain level of understanding in how our culture shapes our social interactions with others. This all provides evidence for the argument that Goffman’s work, especially his dramaturgical model, is valuable in contemporary society when trying to theories social roles and relations. However, it can be argued that Goffman does not give enough recognition to the role those power plays in shaping our social relations. If his dramaturgical model ignores this potentially crucial factor, can it be considered valuable? Additionally, his choice of methodology has also attracted criticism. However, there are doubts over its validity as a research method. It can be argued that using a metaphor means any “resulting analysis cannot be disproved” and may therefore have little scientific use and also the metaphors are criticizes only “partial descriptions of social behaviour”. Consequently, Goffman’s use of a metaphor to outline his dramaturgical model may result in the validity of his entire theory being questioned, and therefore its overall value to contemporary society.

Goffman’s suggestion that his dramaturgical model revolves around the interaction rituals of everyday life has also been questioned. But in the continuous increase in the formality of modern interpersonal relationships there is a decline in class in contemporary society raise doubts about “the degree to which such rituals are essential to everyday life”. This again suggests that Goffman’s dramaturgical model is of no value to theorizing social roles and relations in contemporary society. This argument is also reinforced by the fact that his model is only relevant to western societies “which have developed a division between the public and the private realms of life”. Essentially, Goffman universalizes from a perspective of a white, middle-class male in 1950’s America, where there are apparent ‘front’ and ‘back’ stages. Giddens (2009) argues that this division is not as apparent or does not exist at all in other societies and therefore Goffman’s dramaturgical model is irrelevant.

In conclusion, Goffman’s dramaturgical model has both its criticisms, and its values. It can be seen that there are legitimate concerns regarding its validity and significance within certain cultures. However, it is valuable in some respects as it can be applied to contemporary western societies when theorizing social roles and relations. This helps to give us a greater understanding of why people act they way to do in different situations. In addition, Goffman’s overall contribution to sociology is unquestionable and it is fair to say that his dramaturgical model has a strong role to play in that (http://socyberty.com/sociology/erving-goffmans-dramaturgical-model/).


The work of Goffman manifests the deep appreciation in the individual work within the society. His contribution in the sociology has a great effect in the modern sociological studies. For example, economics is linked to the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services; political science to political philosophy and to actual forms of government; and psychology to individual human mental processes. Sociology, however, is involved with almost the whole human life beyond the biological level which fully asserted by Goffman in his study. Virtually, all human activities have a social aspect in that people engage in them together rather than alone and mutually influence one another. Sociology is best viewed with the contribution of Goffman as not as a distinct subject area but as a particular perspective on human conduct. The same may be said of psychology, but the psychologist focuses on the individual whereas the sociologists are concerned with the pattern of social relations formed by two or more persons. Social interactions, or the mutual responses of individuals, are perhaps the basic sociological concept, because such interaction is the elementary component of all relationships and groups that made human society.

As a discipline, or a body of systematized knowledge of sociology, Goffman used this as an inspiration in presenting one-self and which can be the very foundation of a society. The aspect of his studies was long identified primarily with the broad evolutionary reconstructions of historical changes in Western Societies, as well as the endeavour to explore the relationships and interdependencies among their more specialized institutions and aspect of social life, such as economy, the state, the family, and religion. Sociology, in Goffman’s study, can be thought more about synthesizing the field that attempted to integrate the findings acquired from other social sciences. Although such concepts concerning the scope and task of sociology are still prevalent, they now tend to be regarded as the province of sociological theory, which is only a part of the entire discipline.

Sociological theory, in a lighter sense as based on the works of Goofman, includes the discussion and analysis of basic concepts that are common to all different spheres of social life that had been part of studying sociology. An emphasis on empirical investigations – that is, the gathering of data – carried out by standardized and often statistical research methods, directed the attention of sociologists away from the total but abstract visions towards the limited and concrete areas of social reality. These areas where Goffman focused on came to constitute the recognized subfields and specialties of sociology that are today part of the college courses, textbooks, and specialized journals. Much of the scholarly and scientific works of Goffman, it falls clearly within one another of the many subfields into which the discipline is divided and can be performed by an individual. In addition to the basic concepts, research sociological theory and research methods are both usually required subjects for all who study sociology.

The oldest subfields in the disciplines are those that concentrate on the social phenomena in which Goffman in practically asserting and that have not previously been adopted as objects of study by other social science disciplines. These include marriage and the family, social inequality, and social stratification, ethnic and race relations, deviant behavior, urban communities, and complex or formal organization. Subfields of more recent origin examine the social aspects like on sex and gender roles. Because nearly all human activities involved in social relation, another major source of specialization within sociology is the study of the social structure of recognized areas of human activity which is bound to be in the concept of interaction. These areas of teaching and research include the sociology of politics – even in simple conversations – law, religion, education, and many others. The subfields differ widely in the extent to which they have accumulated a substantial body of research and attracted the large numbers of practitioners. Some, such as the sociology of sports, are of recent origin, whereas others rooted deeply in the earliest form of sociology. Certain subfields had achieved brief popularity, only to be later incorporated into a more comprehensive area. A more common sociological phenomenon is the splitting of a recognized subfield into narrower subdivisions; the sociology of knowledge, for an instance, has increasingly been divided into individual sociologies of science, art, literature, popular culture, and language.

In the shade of interdisciplinary fields, the oldest and most important would be the social psychology in which Goffman justified through explaining the things around and at present through the simple interaction. Actually, it has often been considered virtually a separate discipline, drawing practitioners from both sociology and psychology. As sociologists, they are primarily concerned with the social norms, roles, institutions, and the structure of groups, while social psychologists concentrate on the impact of these various areas on individual personality. Social psychologists trained in sociology have pioneered in the studies in interaction in small informal groups; such as the distribution of the beliefs and attitudes in a population; and the shaping of personality through the experience of socialization, or the formulation of character and outlook under the influence of the family, the school, the peer group, and other socializing agencies. The psychoanalytic ideas derived from the work of Sigmund Freud and other later psychoanalysts have been particularly important in this last area of psychology. This might be also played a significant part in the study of Goffman in presenting one-self.

As for the comparative historical sociology there is an often strongly influenced by the ideas of both Marx and Weber but has shown much growth in the recent years. Many historians have been guided by concepts borrowed from sociology; at the same time some sociologists had carried out large-scale historical comparative studies. The once firm barriers between history and sociology have crumbled especially in such areas as social history, demographic change, economic and political development, and the sociology of revolutions and protest movements.

Research Methods

Sociologists use nearly all the methods of acquiring information employed in the other social sciences and the humanities, from advanced mathematical statistics to the interpretation of the texts. They also rely heavily on primary statistical information that is usually regularly collected by the governments such as census, records of employment, immigration, the frequency of crime, and other useful statistics that can be used as variable and for quantitative measurement. It seems like the method established by Goffman is criticized by some of his contemporaries because it appeared that the process of his information gathering is plainly through observation and interpreting things.

The direct observation or reporting is the firsthand in some aspect of study within the society. The society, in fact, has a long history in sociological research. Sociologists have sometimes obtained information through what has been called participant observation- that is, by temporarily becoming or by pretending to become members of the group being studied. Sociologists also obtain firsthand information by relying on knowledgeable informants from the group. Both methods have also been used by social anthropologists. Several of the classical studies of American sociology, in fact, were patterned on anthropological accounts of illiterate peoples, in that they attempted to present the complete pictures of life that represents their study.

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In recent years, the detailed firsthand observation has been applied to smaller-scaled settlings, such as hospital wards, religious, and political meetings, bars and casinos, and classrooms. The work of the Canadian-born sociologists Erving Goffman (1922-82) has actually proven both models and a theoretical rationale for such studies. Goffman’s influence has been only one of the numbers of theoretical currents insisting that everyday life as directly experienced is the bedrock of social reality, underlying all statistical and conceptual abstractions. This emphasis has encouraged intensive microsociological investigations using instruments as tape recorders and video cameras in natural rather than artificially contrived “experimental” social situations (Giddens, 2009).

Furthermore, sociologists use surveys for scholarly or scientific purposes in nearly all subfields of the discipline, although surveys had been most often employed in the study of voting behavior, racial and ethnic prejudice, responses to mass communications, and other areas in which the probing of subjective attitudes is clearly appropriate. Although surveys are an important sociological research tool, their suitability for many types of investigation has been widely criticized. Direct observation of social behavior cannot be replaced by verbal answers to an interviewer’s standard list of questions even if such answers lend themselves easily to statistical tabulation and manipulation. Observation enables sociologists to obtain in-depth information about certain group in which Goffman’s method is good as an example.

Emerging Trends

Since the 1960s sociology has ceased to be primarily an American subject. In sociological theory, in particular, a partial reversal of the previous direction of influence has occurred, with theoretical currents once again and the sociologists expanded enormously in both Europe and US. In addition to theoretical diversification, new subfields came into being, such as the sociology of gender (spurred by the resurgence of feminist movements), which includes the analysis of gender-based social roles and inequalities, and the study of emotions, aging, and the life course. Older subfields such as historical and comparative sociology were revitalized, as was the broaden movement towards theoretical practice, which encompasses applied sociology, policy analysis, and various sociological interventions. Sociological practitioners apply their knowledge through roles as consultants, planners, educators, researchers, and managers in federal, state, and local government, in nonprofit organizations, and in business – especially in the field of marketing, advertising, insurance, human resources, and organizational analysis.

Sociologists made greater use both of traditional research methods associated with other disciplines, such as the analysis of the historical resource materials, and one of more sophisticated statistical and mathematical techniques adapted to study of social phenomena. Development of increasingly complex computers and other devices in handling and storing information has facilitated the processing of sociological data. Because of the wide diversity in research methods and approaches, sociologists working in a particular subfield often have more in common with workers in a complementary discipline than with sociologists specializing in other subfields. A sociologist of art, for example, stands much closer in interests and methods to an art historian or critic than to a sociologist who constructs mathematical models of occupational mobility. In theory, methods, and the subject matter, no single school of thought or topic dominates sociology today (Mujtaba, Griffin, & Oskal, 2004).

In Practical Association

Actually, Goffman focuses on how the men are interacting with the society and his environment which mainly involves the changes in the objectives. In today, the development in the society came to the point where in the discussion leads to “human security” there is an emerging role of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in the development of multidimensional peace-building activities. In the changing international environment in which local, regional, and global level actors and norms have accrued enhanced legitimacy, a new generation of multi-dimensional peace-building activities has developed aiding in the development of ethical norms, utilizing peacekeeping, traditional mediation, conflict resolution or transformation, increasingly through transnational organizations and NGOs (Mercer, 2002).

The re-emergence of ethonationalist and identity based conflicts, and to respond to urgent humanitarian crises. It is in this context that the peace-building role of NGOs in conflict and complex emergencies may be usefully located and assessed as part of a socio-political fabric engaged in sustainable approaches to ending conflict. Conflict resolution/transformation and peace-building approaches to understanding conflict and methodologies for addressing it are being utilized by NGOs. This is in conjunction with more formally constituted methods and actors, in order to stabilize local environments in a local, regional and global normative context, as well as in the context of an emerging global civil society. This may enhance the legitimacy of NGOs (and their regulation) and may also increase the effectiveness of peace-building in the international system (Bratton, 1994).

Part of NGOs approach in peace-building is with the perspective on conflict, and the methodology which is derived from it for solving conflict, is thought to remove the critical difficulties inherent in first generation peacemaking where the common argument is made that involvement is crippled by the intensity of the dispute, the resources or lack of that the third party has access to, and the type of issues at stake for the disputants. The application of the international system dictates those third parties or the NGOs to view their role as one of conflict management as opposed to resolution in order to bring about compromise through bilateral and trilateral negotiations. In response to the peace-building approaches, it has been argued that settlements need to be based upon just political orders which promote democracy and human rights, new norms, participatory governance structures, civil society, international tribunals, and truth commissions. Disarming, repatriating refugees, building a consensus for peace under the auspices of the UN, and moderate local political leadership play a role in this method (Mercer, 2002). This is based on conflict resolution perspectives of conflict, and requires deep access into local environments, something that requires grassroots processes rather than top down approaches. NGOs can often provide this because of their unofficial and human security oriented focus. As actors of peace-building process, NGOs should focus on the injustices relating to human needs/security, humanitarian intervention, and human rights and the inflexible perceptions that states have held with respect to territorial sovereignty. NGOs have often been a low profile response to the exploitation of power by political entrepreneurs in domestic environments, and to intractable conflicts, economic inequality, and humanitarian abuses. The relationship of the NGOs in the society creates an emergence in the solving the needs and act in a much broader range of security issues, which makes the role of the NGOs complex. Providing a serious action on the impediment is a great start in the peace-building processes (Richmond, 2001).

The global changes continuously draw its impact in different parts of the world and reflected in the e-society. It also affects the simple business transactions up to the simple livelihood of the citizens. The issue of globalization got the attention of the researchers and proved itself as a great substitute from the traditional. In addition, the society embraced those changes and crafted a revolution that aims for its benefits.

The e-society is the term applied in the use of the consumers on Internet, web, and information technology in which it can change the society for the better living. The purpose of this interaction depends on the application of an individual which is mostly according to their needs (Reiter, 2008). However, the people can still recognize that the changes require many non-technical barriers that is indeed, needed to be addressed. The non-technical barriers oftentimes limit the ability or capability of the technology. The e-society is divided in many sectors namely e-commerce which can be applied to the businesses (Mujtaba, Griffin, and Oskal, 2004); e-government that recognizes the activities involved in the governmental sector (Heeks, 2001); e-learning or the innovative approach on education to achieve the quality education; e-health that was made to improve the health status of the society (Kaveny and Keenan, 1995); e-science that sometimes collaborated to the e-health and is bound for the continuous scientific research activities (Binik, Mah, and Kiesler, 1999; Reiter, 2008) and; e-entertainment that is for the leisure of the individuals (Husselbee, 1994). All of the components of the e-society are purposely made for the benefit of the society. But as the old saying says “no one is created perfect” – the e-society also receives drawbacks and other limitations because of the issues. One example is the e-commerce, the business leaders recognized the benefits such as changing the facilities, production process, or service offered. The business leaders also aim for serving the customers even from a far. But with the aid of the technology, this is highly positive. In fact, through the interaction of the business in the technology, the marketing and/or advertising can be easy. There are only problems that limit the businessmen in doing so. The problems are on the business models that can be apply for the organizational change; the security of the applied internal system, privacy of the people and even the consumers, and the trust and; the legal barriers to international sales (Mujtaba, Griffin, and Oskal, 2004).


Sociologists, like historians, also make extensive use of secondhand source materials. These generally include life histories, personal documents, and clinical records. Although the popular stereotypes have sometimes pictured sociologists as people who by pass qualitative observation of human experiences by reducing them to statistical, or quantitative, summaries, these never had been accurate. Goffman’s works impressively left a great contribution in sociology and explaining the interaction of individuals as much as giving the light emphasize on how an individual represents in the crowd. Therefore, his part in sociological field of work is utilized to use as basis in developing the society in a most attractive way.


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