Social Order (Foucault and Goffman)

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Introduction Social order derives from an interpretation of a net of relations, symbols and social codes. It creates 'a sense of how individuals all fit together in shared spaces' (Silva, 2009, p. 308), and thus relies on encoding of human behaviour in physical spaces as well as among various individuals. In any society, people must acquire knowledge of how to relate to one another and their environment. Order is then established by a normalisation and standardisation of this knowledge. This essay will examine two views on social order, applied to social sciences, and embodied in everyday life. It will compare and contrast a Canadian sociologist, Erving Goffman, and a French philosopher, Michel Foucault. Through an analysis of these two…show more content…
In The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life (1959), Goffman proposes that social reality relies on rituals and learned behaviour. He metaphorically calls these 'performances'. The sociologist uses a theatre imagery for ordinary social contexts, in which people adapt to situations in presence of others, and in specific public places, and they perform different 'selves', according to given circumstances. Thus, 'presentation of the individual self is a collective affair' (Silva, 2009, p. 318); when 'on stage', individuals adopt a certain identity, which they abandon 'off stage', in privacy, at home or in a setting that does not demand 'a role'. For example, a school teacher must acquire a character of authority, able to stay in charge while being friendly. She must acquire a specific body language and rhetorics, even if she experiences a personal crises. After she leaves school, her manners can change, and she becomes less formal. On the other hand, Foucault proposes that in charge of putting up signs and rules, in order to uniform society, and make it adaptable to a given system, is the state. According to Silva, he believes, that discourses are established through 'authority relations and changes in dominant ways of thinking' (Silva, 2009, p. 323). Thus, individual is socially constructed by controlling agents rather than a free choice. Institutions rely on a distribution of power,
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