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A Critical Review of Erving Goffman’s Stigma Essay

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A Critical Review of Erving Goffman’s Stigma In his preface Goffman states his intentions to use ‘popular work’ on stigma as a basis for his own review and expansion within his preoccupation of ‘social information,’ the information an individual directly conveys about himself. The book opens with a letter to a “lonelyhearts” column from a girl born without a nose which concludes ‘Ought I commit suicide?’ This sets the tone for a book which aims to be a comprehensive and illuminating excursion into the situation of persons who are unable to conform to standards that society calls “normal.” The content of this text is fundamentally textual and is clearly elucidated throughout by real-life…show more content…
But the subtitle Notes on the Management of Spoiled Identity comes with it a reference to such structural features of society which are virtually ignored after the opening chapter. After this a preoccupation with microsociology, a distance from the consideration of social structure and cultural systems, instead treating them as given, can be seen. The narrative develops this main idea topically in five clearly defined chapters and their sub-sections. This is a structure that seems appropriate enough for the academic audience as, I presume, was Goffman’s intention, but is one that may be a little turgid for a less ardent reader. His writing style is simple enough and could be said to be economical, a trait which, again, appears suitable to the purpose of the author. The analysis of how ‘we normals’ respond to discredited features and encourage the adoption of a good adjustment is cool and reasoned, but the commentary on this analysis is much more fiery: ‘The good-adjustment line. . . means that the unfairness and pain of having to carry a stigma will never be presented to [normals]; it means that normals will not have to admit to themselves how limited their tactfulness and tolerance is; and it means that normals can remain
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