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Social Life Order: Erving Goffman and Michel Foucault’ Views Essay


While performing their everyday activities and observing changes in the world and society, people often refer to the idea of the social order. These references to the social order concepts can be both conscious and non-conscious, and they reflect the people’s demands for ordering the life round them according to certain criteria and principles. Representatives of different communities understand that they interact within the society according to a range of principles which form the social order (Silva, 2009, p. 311).

However, the approaches to understanding the basics of the social order can also be different, depending on the principles which are discussed by sociologists as the fundament of the concrete approach. The key points regarding which the sociologists’ visions can vary are the main questions, claims, concepts, theories, and evidence. From this point, it is important to compare and contrast different views on the idea of the social order developed by Goffman and Foucault in their works. Thus, Goffman discusses the social order as a result of the people’s everyday practices, interactions, and activities; on the contrary, Foucault states that the social order is a result of the historical processes, authority’s impact, and the people’s focus on knowledge and discipline.

Focusing on the principles of Goffman’s approach to the social order, it is necessary to note that Goffman is inclined to ask the question about the connection between the social order and persons’ individual performances or interactions. Goffman answers the question about the connection while stating that the social order is the result of the people’s everyday actions, performances, practices, and interactions which are observed during the usual daily activities.

This theory is supported by Goffman’s personal observations of people’s everyday interactions within various contexts and situations. Concentrating on the results of observations, Goffman claims that people interact within the society as actors play on stage. Individual performances depend on the context of the situation and on the people involved in the interaction. Thus, Goffman chooses the concept of performances as the key one to explain his theory, and he uses the idea of the interactional order to describe the whole approach to the society, its order, and rituals (Silva, 2009, p. 316). From this perspective, it is possible to speak about Goffman’s approach to the idea of the social order is dependent on the social interactions observing within the specific context, when people should play definite roles while interacting or performing according to the set rituals.

The vision of the social order developed by Foucault is based on answering such a question as to the role of authority in controlling the people’s behaviours within the society. Foucault develops the theory according to which the social order is associated with the focus on discipline and set of norms and rules promoted by the authorities during different periods of time. In his works, Foucault also claims that only power can affect forming the order within the society, and social institutions such as family and workplace can differ in relation to the impact on the social order (Silva, 2009, p. 319). These institutions are characterised by a certain level of authority to influence the social order. For instance, church and legal authorities can have various roles in affecting the social order during different historical periods. Thus, Foucault operates such concepts as power, authority, and knowledge while referring to the evidence related to the historical processes to support his discussion of the social order in the historical context and with references to the idea of discourse related to social interactions and order.

While comparing and contrasting Goffman and Foucault’s approaches to understanding and explaining the social order, it is necessary to focus on the certain key points of the authors’ theories separately. First, both Goffman and Foucault try to find the answers to the question about the origin and nature of the order within the society. However, if Goffman focuses on asking about the role of the individual’s performance, informing the social order, Foucault chooses to concentrate on the role of authority to influence the behaviours observed within the society. The next important aspect to discuss is the sociologists’ theory which is the result of Goffman and Foucault’s work to answer the set questions.

Thus, Goffman and Foucault share similar ideas while trying to connect the aspects associated with the individual and the points associated with the social context. Nevertheless, Goffman and Foucault use different grounds to connect these aspects. Goffman focuses on the extremely important role of the individuals’ performances to form the social order. On the contrary, Foucault concentrates on the discipline, authority, and power of knowledge is affecting the social order (DD101, Online Activity 23, 2009). As a result, Goffman and Foucault make different claims and develop different concepts.

The sociologists’ claims are connected with the idea of interaction. However, if Goffman points at the interaction between individuals, Foucault is interested in the interaction associated with the discourse. That is why the sociologists’ claims are similar in a way, but Goffman accentuates the role of the individual, and Foucault emphasises the significance of discourse. As a result, Goffman’s concepts are connected with the idea of interaction as the main persons’ activity.

Goffman actively operates the idea of the interactional order and people’s performances. On the contrary, Foucault pays more attention to the concepts of discourse and authority. Social interactions are discussed as the discourse, and the power of authority is the main factor to speak about the certain social order as the set of strict social norms which are the result of the people’s historical development. One more important factor to speak about the credibility of Goffman and Foucault’s approaches is the fact that both the sociologists refer to the reliable evidence while supporting their ideas (DD101, Online Activity 23, 2009). Nevertheless, the difference is in the nature of the researchers’ evidence because Goffman refers observing the specific situations of people’s real interactions, and Foucault supports his claims with the evidence from the historical sources and evidence.

In spite of the fact that both Goffman and Foucault selected to concentrate on the social order as the main focus of their research, the sociologists used different concepts and ideas in order to explain the notion of the social order. According to Goffman, the social order is a result of people’s interactions in different real-life situations which can be compared with theatre performances. Following definite rituals, individuals choose how to play in this or that situation. Foucault is concentrated on the social order as influenced by certain authorities and sources of knowledge. Social orders change depending on the changes in the role of certain institutions within society.

Reference List

Silva, E. B. (2009) ‘Making social order’ in Taylor, S., Hinchliffe, S., Clarke, J. and Bromley, S. (eds), Making Social Lives, Milton Keynes, The Open University. Web.

The Open University (2009) DD101 Introducing the Social Sciences, ‘Online Activity 23 – Constructing a social science argument: the circuit of knowledge 4’. Web.

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IvyPanda. (2020, May 25). Social Life Order: Erving Goffman and Michel Foucault' Views. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/social-life-order-erving-goffman-and-michel-foucault-views/

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"Social Life Order: Erving Goffman and Michel Foucault' Views." IvyPanda, 25 May 2020, ivypanda.com/essays/social-life-order-erving-goffman-and-michel-foucault-views/.

1. IvyPanda. "Social Life Order: Erving Goffman and Michel Foucault' Views." May 25, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/social-life-order-erving-goffman-and-michel-foucault-views/.


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IvyPanda. "Social Life Order: Erving Goffman and Michel Foucault' Views." May 25, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/social-life-order-erving-goffman-and-michel-foucault-views/.

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IvyPanda. 2020. "Social Life Order: Erving Goffman and Michel Foucault' Views." May 25, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/social-life-order-erving-goffman-and-michel-foucault-views/.

References

IvyPanda. (2020) 'Social Life Order: Erving Goffman and Michel Foucault' Views'. 25 May.

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