Last Updated 26 Jan 2021

All the World’s a Stage, the Dramaturgy

Category Philosophy, Sociology
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All The World’s a stage “All the world's a stage, And all the men and women merely players. They have their exits and their entrances; And one man in his time plays many parts” Shakespeare. Although Shakespeare wasn’t a sociologist, I think this quote profoundly sounds like Ervine Goffman’s ideas of dramaturgy and impression management. I agree with both Shakespeare and Ervine. We all have a part to play in this world and we do play it. To me Ervine Goffman’s ideas about self and dramaturgy are the most applicable social ideas in my own life.

He believed we do something called impression management. I have actually noticed myself using impression management every day. I have also noticed that in sociology we really need to understand face to face interactions of individuals to understand a society as a whole. He also believed in a concept called symbolic interactionism. He believed that social interactions are what make someone who they are. I believe that to understand his ideas better it is imperative that you know a little about him. Goffman was born June 11, 1922(Blackwood, 2011) to a Jewish Ukrainian couple in Canada.

Initially, he received his bachelors in sociology at the University of Toronto. Then he went to the University of Chicago to achieve his masters and doctorate. Chicago was the center for many micro-sociologists and symbolic interationists like Goffman. His ideas must have made him fit right in with all the other sociologists studying at University of Chicago. He also studied a year in Shetland and wrote a book called The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. This is where he refers to the theory of us always being onstage. He then went to Berkley to teach about Sociology and Anthropology (which he also studied).

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Goffman also went onto to write about his ideas of total institution (the sociology term for somewhere completely blocked off from normal society). He wrote many books over his life time and he remained a very important man in the sociology world. He ended his writing career going back to address more evidence that we are all performers, he ended on the same note he started on. He passed on November 19th, 1982. ((Blackwood, 2011) Micro-Sociology is the study of a small group of people to understand how society works as a whole.

Ervine Goffman advocated this idea and used face-to-face interactions as a basis to understand sociology. I believe that this is a very true idea because without individuals there is no society. I also believe that how we act as individuals is what makes a society how it is. For example as individuals we actually enjoy conflict when the conflicts involves others. In high school I remember that everyone always wanted to stop in the hallway to watch people fight. On a larger scale society watches reality Television shows like “Bad girls Club” just to see these conflicts.

Everything we do individually affects us as a society. Another thing that Goffman believed in was how society is what makes us who we are, this is called social interactionism. Yes we make up society but in turn society molds us to who we are as well. For example a child is born completely without morals and values. These things are taught to the child by family and ultimately society. The child is taught killing is deviant and unacceptable. It is also taught that being overweight is a concrete stigma for females of society. Therefore if the child is a girl they will constantly want to be skinny, even at a young age.

My Humanities professor was talking about how his 8 year old daughter was called fat the other day in school. Now the young girl will not eat very much. This not something we are born with, these are learned values that society teaches. I have my own personal experience with social interactionism. My whole life society has shaped me to be who I am. It’s almost like a very subtle, yet powerful, form of peer pressure. For example I think that if it weren’t for the fact that society teaches that you should treat strangers with absolute respect I think I would have had a lot more conflicts with them.

Society teaches us to not get as angry with strangers as we do with our own friends and family members. Another thing Goffman believed was an idea called dramaturgy. Dramaturgy is the idea that we all act around people as if we were actors on a stage. He believed that the only time we acted as our true selves was when we are backstage and no one else is around to see us. I believe this is true of everyone in society. Of course there are those who have to act because it’s their job. Politicians, lawyers, servers, parents these people have to put up a facade so that others reactions server their purpose.

Not all of this acting is used for selfish purposes though. For example a parent doesn’t want their child to be scared so in a crisis they might smile and tell them everything is going to be all right, even if they know it’s not going to be alright. The final point I agreed with Goffman on was an idea called impression management. Impression management is similar to dramaturgy however it is how we are all the time. I use impression management every day. For example I am a server and I have to come off a certain way for my guests to like me or I won’t make any money.

I have to smile even when I’m stressed and I have to use a completely different voice when addressing my guest than I would use with anyone else. I also have to pretend I like things on the menu I have not even tried. In conclusion, I agree with Goffman’s theories on dramaturgy, impression management, micro-sociology, and symbolic interactionism. I concur with the fact that society shapes you to be who you are, it has definitely made me who I am. I also think that looking at how individuals interact with each other is imperative in finding out how society works.

You cannot understand the big picture without first looking at the small details. Impression management is a very important part of my life because it’s how I make a living. Finally dramaturgy is something we all do every day. We are actors on the stage of Society Citations 1. Blackwood, B. D. (2011, July 06). Blackwood. org. Retrieved from http://www. blackwood. org/Erving. htm 2. Travers, A. (1997). Reviewing sociology. Retrieved from http://www. reading. ac. uk/RevSoc/archive/volume10/number1/10-1e. htm

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